Labour ministry too weak to check excesses of oil companies- NUPENG

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers ( NUPENG ) has said that the Nigerian Ministry of Labour and Employment was not making concrete efforts to check the protracted labour issues concerning the operations of the multinational oil and gas companies in the country.

The union is also accusing Dutch oil giant, Shell of pioneering the practice of casualisation and precarious work in the Nigerian oil and gas industry and has stopped employing workers on permanent basis for the past 20 years.

In its presentation to the ILO Committee on the Application of Standard signed by President of the Union, Comrade William Akporeha, NUPENG said the Ministry appeared overwhelmed by the ever changing and manipulative policies in the various Human Relations departments of these stakeholders who never wanted to halt precarious work claiming that their role is only advisory

The Union said as at today, SHELL alone has close to 2000 contractors with over 20,000 precarious workers from their three subsidiaries of SNEPCo, SPDC and SNG, adding that there is no single direct staff member of NUPENG in SHELL Nigeria.

NUPENG said the management of Shell continuously frustrated union activities in their contracting companies which run their contractual policies, ranging from 6 to 12 months.

The union said “the struggle against this form of workers exploitation is almost three decades old, and it has been a herculean task, membership of the union has been seriously depleted, indecent work entrenched resulting into upsurge in crime and social dislocations and defiant behaviours”.

According to NUPENG, the International Oil Companies, through various policies and practices entrenched anti-labour/ union organizing situation in the Nigeria oil and gas industry, include refusal to allow unionization of Contract and service contracts workers.

It said the policies also include “fragmentation of Contracts into thousands to frustrate the efforts of the union in organizing precarious workers, making worker to sign pre engagement non membership of union, and this makes precarious workers dread associating with the union, treating labour relations issues with contempt and disdain to the extent of refusing implementation on rulings of Industrial Arbitration Panels whenever it goes against the company”.

The union said that the wages these IOCs pay workers in Nigeria are so poor and very ridiculous; an average precarious worker is paid less than $200 per month.

As a result of the prevalent practice of casual/contract employment policy by these Multinational companies, NUPENG said the workers are denied collective bargaining power and in some instances, where a CBA is signed, the all-powerful multinationals through their contractors refuse to implement despite all entreaties.

“The wicked elopement of Contract workers severance benefits by Contractors to these IOCs. A Nigerian would work under harsh and hard conditions for several years receiving peanuts and yet while the contract ends, his/her severance benefits are taken away by contractors hired by an international oil company. Most times when confronted they feign ignorance of the where about of the contractor

“The health and Safety conditions of work of these worker is disheartening, they are constantly exposed to hazardous chemical, no Personal protective equipment, no access to medical facility, no annual vacation, no insurance cover, long hours of work with no time off from work.

“The repressive anti-labour activities of these multinational oil and gas companies generally accentuated the social upheavals in the Niger Delta region, revolts in the form of organized attacks on installations, hostage taking and community insurgence, as prevalent today in the Niger Delta region, and other parts of the country where there is mass unemployment and under-employment”.