8 January 2014

Nigeria: FG Makes U-Turn On Refineries' Sale As NUPENG Suspends Strike

The anticipated strike by workers in the oil and gas sector has been suspended following federal government's resolve not to sell the ailing refineries as earlier proposed.

Parties to the resolution agreed at a mediatory meeting called by the minister of labour and productivity, Emeka Wogu, to a Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) for the refineries already in process by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

The president of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) Igwe Achese, his Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) counterpart Babatunde Ogun, the general secretaries of both unions as well as the minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, all jointly appended their signatures to the new resolution.

Wogu, who read out the communique on behalf of all parties, said: "Trade unions in the oil and gas sector of the economy namely NUPENG and PENGASSAN have agreed with the federal government to engage in social dialogue to develop viable and workable business models for the nation's refineries.

"Based on the above understanding, the trade unions in the oil and gas sector shall not embark on any form of industrial action over the subject matter."

Government officials yesterday had met with officials of the two unions in an attempt to stave off the planned nationwide strike.

The meeting started at about 2pm while journalists were briefed at about 4pm after which the government officials and the union went into a closed-door session that lasted till late in the night.

The federal government had late last year constituted a committee headed by Alison-Madueke to work out modalities for the sale of the four refineries located in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna.

But, since the announcement of the plans by the federal government, oil workers unions have condemned the proposal, threatening to call out their member on strike to protest the decision.

Briefing journalists before the closed-door meeting, labour minister Emeka Wogu expressed confidence that both parties was hopeful of striking a deal with the unions to avert the strike, stating that dialogue remains the best option.

However, as at the time of filing this report, the meeting was still on.

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