The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) on Monday alleged that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) sacked 850 contract workers.
The unions, in a joint statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES, said the workers were disengaged from their duty posts at the nation's refineries.
The statement was signed by the National President of NUPENG, Williams Akporeha; National President of PENGASSAN, Ndukaku Ohaeri; as well as Messrs Afolabi Olawale and Lumumba Okugbawa, general secretaries of NUPENG and PENGASSAN, respectively.
Titled 'NUPENG and PENGASSAN strongly react to comments by Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, on refineries and oil and gas workers', the unions faulted comments made by Mr Sylva about the fate of the workers.
The unions said the minister's statements "were laced with fabricated misinformation, misrepresentation of facts and falsehoods." They noted that the statements include claims that the refineries have not been working for three years and workers have been receiving salaries and promotion; that workers were responsible for the sorry state of the refineries; and that the union threatened to go on strike when the NNPC threatened to sack support staff.
"The Union/Association found the comments of the minister most uncharitable and appalling," the statement said. They added that the minister only attempted to place policy failure, maladministration, lack of foresight and mismanagement of the refineries on hapless workers.
The statement reads in part: "On the purported threat of the Group Managing Director of NNPC to sack workers, we wish to state here that it was actually no more a threat but that it had already been carried out with the sack of 850 support staff in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, throwing almost a thousand workers into hard financial situation without an iota of empathy or consultation with the union," it said.
The unions claimed that they never threatened to go on strike, but rather demanded to be engaged for a proper discussion on the commensurate terminal benefits of the workers, who already worked for 10 to 15 years.
"We found it rather highly inhuman and unfair on the part of NNPC management to sack these workers with only their last pay cheques after 15 good years of their lives in NNPC," the unions said.
"If a Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Group Managing Director of NNPC can dismiss contract workers that have served for more than 10 years continuously as if they are rodents, what more can we expect from lOCs. The monthly salaries of 25 of these contract staff put together cannot equal a typical management staff salary of the same organisation."
But in his reaction on Monday, the NNPC spokesperson, Kennie Obateru, said the affected workers are not staff of the corporation, but of third party contracting firms, who were laid off because of redundancy.