Nigeria’s oil workers threatened last night to enforce a total shut down in production at all locations across the country, following the escalation of an industrial dispute declared by the senior staff association, PENGASSAN at the ExxonMobil-NNPC joint venture.
If the production disruption goes ahead as threatened, it was bound to further worsen Nigeria’s economic woes and throw into disarray, the implementation of the yet to be signed 2017 budget, as well as any push to get the economy out of the country’s most debilitating recession in 25 years.
Yesterday’s escalation of the dispute was apparently meant to rubbish the Industrial Arbitration Panel, which had called a hearing for this morning after summoning all the parties to appear before it today.
BusinessDay learnt that the leaders of PENGASSAN have so far rebuffed separate interventions by the Minister of Labour and the Minister of state for petroleum, who had called for a meeting with the union on May 22.
It was learnt that the ministry of labour brought the matter to the industrial arbitration panel after the workers leaders vowed to continue the action, despite the personal intervention of the two ministers.
A senior government official told BusinessDay, that instead of suspending the action as requested by government ministers, the workers last night escalated the dispute by other IOCs in direct contravention of the law governing arbitration.
The union leaders have also failed to comply with an agreement which they signed, to the effect that when a dispute is escalated to the industrial arbitration, there must be a suspension of all industrial action.
“This action by the union leaders is not only a violation of long standing agreements, it is also a calculated attempt to sabotage the economy of Nigeria for selfish gain”, the senior government official told our reporter in Abuja.
Trouble first began at the end of last year, when the management of Mobil let go about a 100 workers considered to be delinquent in their duties and who where then given mouth watering exit packages with some getting about N100 million each.
The action stirred agitation by the workers union and this led to several work disruptions that became violent with damage to equipment at some locations.
During the work disruptions, the lives and equipment on board the company’s floating storage units, FSPs were put at risk, a matter that President Muhammadu Buhari himself found reprehensible when it was brought to his notice.
Our reporter gathered that this latest crisis was sparked by a disciplinary process which was instituted on April 28 to have five of the ringleaders captured on CCTV to have led the destruction of vital oil installations and assault on staff aboard the FSP to account for their actions.
Since this current action by ExxonMobil workers began, the company has managed to continue oil production with only minimal impact, but last night’s threat by the union leaders could change all that.
Nigeria’s is currently producing about 1.8m barrels daily, including condensate and it was hoped that output could rise to the target level of 2.2 million with the completion of repairs of Bonga and the resumption of work at the Forcados terminal.