PENGASSAN insists on strike •Rescheduled meeting between govt, union holds on Monday

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), on Thursday, said that there was no going back on its planned strike slated to have commenced by 12 a.m on Thursday.

Mr Francis Johnson, the national President of PENGASSAN made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

He said that the issues had been pending for so long and that the government had not shown enough seriousness over the matters.

According to him, government is trying to apply fire brigade approach to a serious matter.

“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 and 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.

The PENGASSAN president said that several efforts to engage the government to forestall the strike were frustrated.

He said that before now, the union tried to engage the government on May 24, 2016, which was inconclusive.

He added that the engagement 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.

Corroborating the national president stand on the strike, the association’s Public Relations Officer, Comrade Ojugbana said that the strike has really commenced despite the Eid-el Filtri public holiday declared by the Federal Government.

According to a statement by the PENGASSAN National Public Relations Officer, Comrade Emmanuel Ojugbana, “there is no iota of truth in the report that the strike has been called off or suspended.

“As we speak now, some of our members that are in the offshore have been withdrawn, while others who are on critical equipment have commenced gradual shutting down of such equipment before their final disengagement.

“Our members, especially those in offices and downstream sector will join tomorrow (Friday) as they resume from the Eid el Fitri holiday.”

Comrade Ojugbana has restated that the strike was to press home PENGASSAN demands for government’s attention to some critical challenges impacting the survival of the nation’s oil and gas industry.

However, the meeting between the Ministers of Labour and Petroleum with the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) on how to stave off the association’s planned strike would hold on Monday, July 11, 2016.

The meeting had earlier on been scheduled for Thursday July 7, 2016, but later shifted to Friday.

The President of the Union, Comrade Olabode Johnson who spoke on their invitation by the government and their position on the strike said the union was invited for a meeting scheduled for Friday (today) but it was impossible to hold the meeting today.

“They invited for a meeting tomorrow (today) but we told them it is not possible and was shifted for Monday,” he said.

However, the PENGASSAN president said the strike commences 12 midnight today, because nothing was done by the government on the letters they have written since April, until the eve of the strike.

Comrade Olabode said: “While we wait for the meeting, the strike will commence from midnight today because we have written to government on this situation since April and nothing was done. So, we should not be held responsible for what   goes wrong in the sector.

“We are also concern with what is happening in the country which is why we issue an ultimatum that expired last week; and not until when we asked our members to shun their duty post that the government deemed it fit to hurriedly call us for a meeting. Not until we declared the strike, the government did not deem it fit to see to our plight.”

The Federal Government had failed to hold the crucial meeting earlier scheduled to hold on Thursday with PENGASSAN and NUPENG over the imminent nationwide strike by PENGASSAN.

However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris  Ngige, appealed to the leadership of PENGASSAN to put on hold its planned strike, scheduled to commence yesterday.

Ngige, while begging the union to halt the strike, said this was necessary in view of the ongoing negotiations and in the spirit of social dialogue.

The government said the conciliation meeting failed to hold as planned yesterday  due to the spirit of the season and the national holidays. But it added that the meeting will be held today to resolve the lingering crisis.

“In consideration of the season and national holidays, the conciliation meeting has been rescheduled,” the Deputy Director (press), Ministry of Labour and Employment, Prince Samuel Olowookere said on Thursday.

He added: “The  Minister of Labour and Employment Sen. Chris Nwabueze Ngige and the  Minister of State, Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu will now hold the crucial meeting with Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) tomorrow (today) to put a lasting solution to the lingering problems in the oil and gas sector.

“The meeting is now slated for tomorrow Friday 8th July, 2016 at Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Minister’s Board Room, 11th Floor, NNPC Towers, Abuja by 11:00am Prompt.”