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Unions fight to protect Nigeria’s oil and gas workers

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14 May, 2020Unions in Nigeria are vowing to challenge attempts by oil and gas companies to use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to retrench workers and promote precarious working conditions.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliates, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) organize in the sector in Africa’s biggest oil producing country.

NUPENG president, Williams Eniredonana Akporeha, and general secretary, Afolabi Olawale, and PENGASSAN president, Ndukaku Ohaeri, and general secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, recently raised concerns over reports from workers who fear that they may lose their jobs.

A statement from the union leaders says:

“Unions empathize with employers over the negative impact of COVID-19 on the industry, business operations and earnings. Nevertheless, we strongly feel that downsizing, arbitrary dismissals and termination of workers contracts, introducing precarious and indecent working conditions, and reducing salaries and allowances, should be avoided at all costs. This outrageous behaviour will not benefit anyone.”

Appealing to the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure that multinational and national oil companies follow laws and regulations, the unions say they will fight unfair retrenchments.

“We condemn these moves and vow to resist them with all our might. They are unfair to the selfless and patriotic services that the Nigerian oil and gas workers provided to these companies and the nation during the highly productive years. The workers are still rendering essential services and on the frontline of the struggle against the pandemic.”

Diana Junquera Curiel, IndustriALL energy director says:

“Although Covid-19 is having an unprecedented impact on the oil and gas sector, employers should consult with unions, respect workers’ rights and adhere to the labour laws. Employers cannot make decisions that violate national and international labour standards.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily impacted the oil and gas industry globally. With less mobility due to coronavirus induced lockdowns, demand has dropped and oil prices crashed. The impact is worse on Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, because oil revenues do not only fund the budget but also stabilizes the local currency, the Naira.

The country, which is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) gets revenue of around 90 per cent from oil exports and might need to revise its annual budget again because of the low prices.

Oil contributes 9 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, and the government says the economy will contract by 3.4 per cent because of the lost revenue.

Multinational oil companies with operations in Nigeria include Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Equinor, Shell, Eni and Total. Local companies include the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and others.