Last minute moves by the Federal Government to avert today’s strike by oil workers failed on Thursday – paving the way for the strike to begin today.
The President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Mr. Francis Johnson, failed to show up at an emergency meeting called by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The meeting was earlier scheduled to hold today but when Johnson told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that there was no going back on the strike, the government invited him for a meeting in Abuja.
But Johnson said that he did not attend the meeting because he was consulting with PENGASSAN leaders in Lagos.
He confirmed that the strike will begin from 12 midnight today. It was learnt that the meeting to resolve the crisis will now hold on Monday next week.
Johnson admitted that he was invited to a meeting by the government on Thursday with a view to shelving the strike but he declined because it was not conducive for PENGASSAN.
But the Office of the Minister of Labour and Employment said that PENGASSAN, through the intervention of the Minister, Dr Chris Ngige, agreed to shelve the strike.
In the interview with NAN, Johnson said that there was no going back on the union’s planned strike slated for 12 midnight.
He said that the issues that prompted the strike had been pending for so long and that the government had not shown enough seriousness on them.
According to him, the government is trying to apply a fire brigade approach to the serious issues raised by the oil workers.
“We have discussed this matter long enough for the government to address us but it closed its ears; now the authorities are calling for dialogue. We are ready to work with Mr. President to succeed but other agencies involved in the discussion were not showing serious concern over the matter and we don’t have any choice than to proceed on strike,’’ he said.
Johnson said that the inability of the Federal Government to honour its agreements contained in May 12, 2016 communiqué was the reason for calling for the strike.
He said that some of the issues included lingering irregular Joint Venture Funding and Cash Call payment arrears, lack of a clear cut direction on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Others are forceful co-option of government agencies into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the spate of redundancy and retrenchment in the industry.
He said that before now, the union tried to engage the government on May 24, 2016, which was inconclusive.
He added that the meeting was later fixed for June 23, 2016, which did not take place and again for June 30, 2016 and which was unceremoniously cancelled with no date given.
“We see this as a deliberate attempt by the government to frustrate the discussion of the myriad of issues raised in the communiqué which are critical to the survival of the oil and gas industry in the country.
“Among the burning issues raised is that of the Joint Venture Funding/Cash Call arrears, which has stalled new investments and the creation of jobs and which has consequently brought about massive job losses.
“We have equally noted with great dismay that our tertiary institutions keep churning out graduates with no or very limited job placement opportunities,’’ Johnson said.
“Even for those that are fortunate to have jobs, it has been a tug-of-war getting their salaries paid as when due and are faced with redundancies on a regular basis, especially in the service sector.
“We cannot fold our hands and watch this gradual collapse of our strategic oil and gas industry and its attendant consequences on the nation’s economy.
“This is a sharp contrast to the present government avowed promised to create and retain jobs,’’ he said.