Oil companies in Nigeria have been accused of using the hard times occasioned by COVID-19 as a pretext to breach subsisting contract agreements they have with their employees.
The accusation was made by the National President of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Mr. Williams Akporeha, who stated that oil companies were terminating contracts without recourse to the subsisting collective bargaining agreements.
Akporeha stated this at the virtual session organised recently by the African Initiative for Transparency and Responsible Leadership (AfriTAL) under its Save Nigeria Oil Gas Initiative Programme, which focused on "Post COVID-19: Oil and Gas Industry Challenges and Prospects."
A communique emanating from the session that was signed by the Executive Director of AfriTAL, Mr. Ogbeifun Brown, which quoted Akporeha said: "Though everybody is saying that the unions should cooperate with the companies to survive, that survival should not be translated into redundancies all the time on the part of the unions."
He alleged that the union has not been consulted when government and the companies were taking decisions on issues that required their inputs.
Citing the issue of removal of subsidy on petrol and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Brown noted that government has a lot to do in terms of consultation with key stakeholders, including the oil workers.
"As a union, we can only cooperate on matters that we are engaged in and that which respects the sanctity of our collective agreements as the basis for collaboration."
Similarly, the National President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Mr. Nduka Ohaeri, according to the communiqué said that "though the unions have the responsibilities of wearing both the national caps and looking at the business, we shall however, not be cowed or cajoled into taking actions or speaking for government or speaking for our employers, because they all have their responsibilities.
"But be rest assured that our responsibility is not lost on us as a union. When necessary, we will wear the national cap. At other times, we shall wear the cap of labour unions in matters relating to the welfare of our members."