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Oil workers caution against labour abuse in new law


oil-workerOil workers under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), have cautioned against inserting anti- labour laws in the proposed Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).

The unions’ position is contained in a joint press statement issued recently after a meeting in Abuja. The unions insisted that no job losses should be recorded in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and all other agencies that would be impacted by the PIGB.

According to the two trade unions, the National Assembly must ensure that workers interests are profected in the bill, currently undergoing legislative scrutiny at the National Assembly.

The unions stressed that labour-related issues must be respected and given due consideration as a panacea for the successful implementation of the bill when enacted.

The unions in the joint statement noted that a major challenge that will confront workers in the organisations and agencies that would be impacted by the PIGB, especially the NNPC is the transitions from a more socially focused organisation to a profit focused one.

They added that the sudden and severe changes that these organisations would bring with the PIGB would impact on the workers like the case of the workers of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) successor companies.

The unions said the PIGB is intended to privatise, as much as is practicable, government’s interest in the petroleum sector, and that if the situation is not carefully and properly handled could lead to serious labour issues thereby jeopardising the overall benefits of the PIGB.

They added that the PIGB also had the additional challenges posed by repeals of existing laws as some of the Acts establishing the government agencies except for Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) and Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) will be repealed by the PIGB.

The unions reiterated that since the Bill plans to change the ownership structure of government establishments in the petroleum sector including asset sales and eventual divestment, workers issues relating to their welfare, benefits, jobs protection and other entitlements should be given due consideration by the National Assembly.

The unions leadership said the position of the two industrial unions had been submitted as encapsulated in their memorandum to the National Assembly based on five major policy thrusts. These are Transparency and accountability fiscal terms, institutional framework (such as Minister, Regulator and commercial entities), Refinery and other down stream activities, and Labour issues and membership of Institutions Boards and committees.

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