NUPENG seeks establishment of pipeline protection agency

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has called for the establishment of a Pipeline Protection Agency to monitor and secure the nation’s pipelines from vandals, who have been inflicting economic damage on the nation.

President of NUPENG, Comrade Achese Igwe, who spoke at the union’s National Education Seminar in Enugu, said the body should be provided with new technologies and sophisticated weaponry to guard the pipelines.

He also decried the increasing cases of unfair labour practices in Nigeria’s petroleum sector.

He said: “The oil and gas industry is passing through turbulent times now as the multinationals are devising all kinds of unhealthy industrial relations methods to emasculate our members out of the system.

“It is sad to note that NUPENG members in the formal sector are at the receiving end, as we are faced with negotiating redundancies almost on a daily basis now.

Comrades, it has not been easy for the union, as our members are depleting on a daily basis because of these retrenchments, redundancies, downsizing and harsh stance on even unionising the members left in the new arrangement.

“The practice of industrial relations has assumed a new dimension that portends danger for the union, with the politics now involved in the privatisation, divestments of onshore oil fields hitherto owned by these big multinational oil companies.

“This also brings us to the issue of outsourcing and casualisation, which has become a cankerworm, and wound that has refused to heal. There is therefore fragile peace in the industrial relations atmosphere in the oil and gas industry. The time bomb is waiting to blow fully, despite the pockets of actions lately.”

According to him, “casualisation and contract staffing have become a social phenomenon and a hydra-headed evil in labour relations in the industry”.

“What constitutes casualisation in the industry is the policy of the multinationals and oil service companies to convert established job positions to casual and labour contract workers in place of permanent labour employment.

“That is the placement of workers as temporary employees on job that is routine, continuous and permanent in nature. Whatever the nomenclature in use, the bottom-line is that these workers are not on the principals’ payroll and are being paid pittance wages by the service providers.

“The union therefore calls for the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which has been before the National Assembly for about four years now to address all these challenges facing the oil and gas industry to ensure transparency, accountability and autonomy.

It is against this backdrop, I also enjoin the National Assembly to speed up the review of the Labour Act 2004, and the passage of the anti-casualisation bill to provide a frame work to end casualisation,” Igwe stated.

Speaking on turn around maintenance for the nation’s four refineries, he said, “We call the federal government to expedite action on the TAM, of the nation’s four refineries as agreed in January 2014. This is so that they can produce at optimal capacity, which will go a long way to end the massive importation of petroleum products, which is eating into our foreign exchange earnings.”