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Union rights at Nigerian Oil and Gas Free Zone

14 February, 2013Pressure from a threatened strike has resulted in the Nigerian government giving oil companies in the zone 90 days to establish unionization in their companies.

The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (Nupeng) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (Pengassan), came together in November 2012 to take action against employers in the free zone that were refusing oil workers’ union rights. Of the 123 companies in the zone, only 5 had allowed the unions to organize workers and at all 5 companies, union leaders have been victimized and dismissed.

When companies did not heed the ultimatum issued by Nupeng and Pengassan, at the end of January 2013 the 2 unions issued notice of a 3 day strike to start on 13 February, if dismissed shop floor union leaders were not reinstated and union rights established in all companies in the free zone.

Seeking to resolve issue before the strike, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu agreed together with the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA) and the unions that companies would be given 90 days to comply with provisions in the law that require companies to allow for unions to be put in place.

The communique issued after the meeting also requires companies to establish industrial relations departments to interface with the free zone authority and the unions. It also requires companies to comply with labour laws and ILO conventions stating, “No worker shall be victimized for any role played in the unionisation process and union activities.”

Isaac Aberare, Acting General Secretary of Nupeng says of the victory; “the free zone authority had been going about its business as if legislated union rights did not apply in the free zone, now these have been established through the intervention of government and oil workers in the free zone will soon benefit from being free to become members of the union.”

“IndustriALL Global Union salutes this historical victory of Nupeng and Pengassan. Unionization is the only way for workers and societies to get a fair share from the wealth, which the oil sector produces. This struggle and victory should be an example for all oil unions, particularly on the African continent,” said IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina.