Oil workers from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) will begin a strike on Thursday and have denied reports that the government had begun negotiations with them, according to PENGASSAN leaders.
Lumumba Okugbawa, acting general-secretary of PENGASSAN, confirmed this on Thursday morning.
“It is not true there are ongoing negotiations between PENGASSAN and the government. Apart from the inconclusive negotiation on June 23, which was rescheduled to June 30, only to be put off indefinitely with no further appointment, we are not aware of any other negotiation with the government,” Mr. Okugbawa said.
He explained that the Ministry of Labour reached out to PENGASSAN leadership late on Wednesday to arrange negotiations to avert the strike. However, Ministry officials proposed to meet on Thursday, when the strike was planned, and then pushed the date to Friday due to the extension of the public holiday. PENGASSAN leaders shot down the proposed talks, saying that its leaders had already been deployed throughout the country in order to begin the strike.
“If the government was sincere, why would it always wait till after the strike had already started before coming out in the media to talk about non-existing negotiations?” Mr. Okugbawa asked. He added that it is now too late too call off the strike.
“The decision to embark on the strike was taken by the National Executive Council of the Association. It is not possible to stop the commencement of the strike now for a meeting with the government on Friday. As far as PENGASSAN is concerned, the strike has commenced as planned,” Mr. Okugbawa said, emphasizing that only the National Executive Council can call off the strike.
The oil workers are striking in order to pressure the government to resolve issues in their May 12, 2016 agreement, includinglingering irregular joint venture funding and cash call payments, lack of a clear cut direction on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), forceful co-option of government agencies in the industry into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), and the spate of redundancy and retrenchment in the industry.