Yemisi Izuora/Agency Report
Thousands of oil workers in Nigeria may lose their jobs after a wave of picketing against several service companies from the industry from members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).
The protests follows allegations that the service companies are refusing to allow their workers to unionize.
Now, leaders from the umbrella workers’ organization Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria are discussing ways of avoiding the crisis, with its chairman accusing PENGASSAN of not being a good sport amid a spate of problems in the local oil industry.
“It is difficult times for the oil firms, not just the service firms but also oil firms that are facing the headwinds in the oil market. Some of them are finding it difficult to pay for jobs delivered by service firms. So, they owe us. We don’t go to war with them because we know what the industry is passing through,” Bank-Antony Okoroafor said.
Okoroafor argued that the service companies the protesters work for are deep in debt in many cases and “banks are chasing them.”
With their calls for unionization, he said, the workers from PENGASSAN are pushing their employers towards bankruptcy, risking their own jobs.
“Now, if these fledgling firms go down completely where will your members work? The biggest losers would be the workers PENGASSAN pretends to be fighting for,” the union’s head said.
PENGASSAN did not back down, however, stating that it would not accept “any management that infringes on the workers’ Rights to Freedom of Association and Lawful Assembly.”
The oil industry in Nigeria contributes around 60 per cent of government revenues and over 80 percent of the country’s export revenues, but it has been plagued by problems in recent years.
Besides vandalism and militant attacks in the oil heartland of Nigeria, the Niger Delta, there is a problem with the overhaul of the local oil industry, which is taking too long, compromising Nigeria’s ability to benefit from higher oil prices.