Abuja — The Federal Government has threatened to withdraw the licence of labour contractors that engage in anti-labour practices.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who disclosed this when hosting the newly elected members of the National Administrative Council (NAC) of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in Abuja, disclosed that the Ministry is working on reforming the process of granting and renewing recruiters license to labour contractors with the aim of ensuring adherence to expatriate quotas and eschew unfair labour practices.
This comes as at the oil workers under the auspices of NUPENGASSAN have declared that they can no longer guarantee industrial harmony in the sector if government fail to curb the abuses of workers' rights by oil companies and labour recruiters.
At the end of their joint National Administrative Council (NAC) and National Executive Council (NEC) meeting under the umbrella of NUPENGASSAN, both NUPENG and PENGASSAN condemned the increasing impunities and anti labour tendencies of most indigenous and multinational oil companies in the oil and gas industry operating in the country.
The President of PENGASSAN and Chairman of NUPENGASSAN, Olabode Johnson, regretted that the situation was compounded by the inability of the Federal Government to frontally address the situation with the Ministry of labour showing helplessness.
Olabode said: "The situation was compounded by the fact that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment that is supposed to be the watchdog in the areas of compliance with extant labour laws is unfortunately handicapped because of poor understanding of the contract processing and workings in the oil and gas industry."
He urged the Federal Government to establish a special body to mediate on the issues.
"The Council in Session demands that a special mediation unit comprising experts from NNPC Human Resources, NAPIMS and other relevant units be set up to apprehend industrial relations/labour disputes and treat them with despatch before escalating to level of any form of Industrial actions," he added.
While observing that it is inevitable to keep contract staffing out of the system, he called on the government and industry agencies to help the industry reverse back to 5 + 1 for the labour contract in the industry.
According to him, "the Council in Session believes that if this is done, contract workers will have some sense of job security and stability. This will definitely rekindle new sense of national pride and patriotism.
"We are worried by the attitudes of those who are desperately looking for contracts, who have forced the Government to keep splitting contracts and reducing contracts duration so as to accommodate more Contractors at the expense of workers."
But Ngige insisted that the ministry is now poised to redress the situation, saying the sanction against contractors that flout the law is in consonance with the Executive Order of the present government to ensure that jobs that are reserved for the local are not given to expatriates as well as protect indigenous products over foreign products.
He added that on the part of the Ministry efforts are in place to close up identified gaps in the operational guideline and labour laws in the oil and gas sector.
"In 2016 despite the shortfall in the oil revenue, the Federal Government brought both the International Oil Companies and the workers together to agree and fashioned out ways to ensure that there is no job loss. This is something to cheer because all parties agreed and we were able to save jobs in the oil and gas sector. We were never happy when people lose their job because the pressure will always come back to the government. Today oil prices have picked up and activities have commenced so we expect new jobs to be created in the oil and gas sector."
The Minister appreciated NUPENG for keeping faith with the Federal Government in 2016 when it moved to ensure appropriate pricing of the pump price of the premium motor spirit saying, "this move showed that we are partners in progress, when Government made a valid point you acceded. It is in the same vain that when you make valid point we listen to you. I want that spirit of cooperation to continue with the newly elected leadership of the union. Our doors are wide open for you," Ngige stated.