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PENGASSAN seals 300 deals, unionises workers in 25 oil firms

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja
10 May 2023   |   3:21 am
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has sealed over 300 Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) and unionised workers in 25 oil and gas companies in the last three years.

Festus Osifo

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has sealed over 300 Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) and unionised workers in 25 oil and gas companies in the last three years.

PENGASSAN President, Festus Osifo, who disclosed this while speaking on his scorecard in Abuja, told The Guardian that the association is not a strike-happy organisation but focused on improving the working condition and livelihood of its members.

“There are some companies that are reluctant to allow unionisation of their workforce. But I can say that since we came in, the current leadership has been able to unionise more than 25 new companies. A company like Eroton, which was founded by Tony Elumelu, has been unionised. Before now, there was no PENGASSAN there, but we were able to bring association into the company. The same goes for Shell.

“The company created different business units that did not allow the workers to belong to unions. As of today, we now have a union in those companies. Though, we have been able to unionise more than 25 companies, there is still more work ahead. The process of unionising all the workers in the oil and gas sector is a work in progress. We still have a few others that we plan to bring into the fold,” he stated.

He insisted that workers have so much to gain when they belong to unions, which protect their interest and pursue it with vigour. He added: “If Eroton was not unionised, we would not have had that leverage to be discussing what their salaries and allowances should be with the NNPC. If they do not belong to PENGASSAN, someone could wake up tomorrow to reduce their pay by fiat. No one will be able to fight for them.”

He also revealed that the union has negotiated over 300 CBAs for the benefit of its members, saying, “when PENGASSAN members voted for me and other executive members on August 28, 2020, they did not vote for an angel to be their president or did they vote for me because they felt I am a perfect man. In terms of the deliverables, the major reason why we were elected is to address industrial matters. That is the primary focus. How far have we protected the jobs and conditions of staff? As of the last count, we have signed over 300 CBAs and these CBAs are signed with improved working conditions.”

He said his team has performed creditably to PENGASSAN members since they were elected in 2020. Osifo, who decried casualisation in the workplace, said PENGASSAN under his watch, has abolished contract staff on its payroll to justify its opposition to the practice and improved conditions of service of its secretariat staffers.

He added: “Today, all the staffers of PENGASSAN in the secretariat have Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO). Also, when we came on board, we discovered that some of the staffers were contract personnel. About 20 per cent of our staff strength was on contract. We rejected such practice.

“We were convinced that if we were going to fight against contract staffing, we had no moral justification to have one contract staff on our payroll. As a labour association, we cannot condone this. So, what we did was to migrate everybody to staff members’ status. As of today, PENGASSAN does not have a single casual worker on its payroll.”

The PENGASSAN chief blamed management and government for most of the industrial actions that happen in workplaces, saying, “there are times that strikes become inevitable, most especially when you have management or government that tends to be irresponsive. The one that just happened in ExxonMobil, for example, could have been addressed earlier because what we got at the end of the strike are what we were advocating for before the strike started.

“So, why would you allow us to go through that experience before the management does the right thing? Most management does not care until there is a full-blown industrial dispute on their hands. As trade unions, we want to say that we have a toolbox.

In our toolbox, we have consultations, confrontation and strike and any one of them could be deployed when necessary for the improvement of the working condition of our members.”

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