The dispute between the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and a subsidiary of United States’ ExxonMobil Corporation took a turn for the worse on Monday as the union extended its industrial action to other international oil companies operating in the country.
This followed the rejection of the directive by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, by the Mobil Producing Nigeria Branch of PENGASSAN that the industrial action should be suspended.
The Secretary, PENGASSAN MPN Branch, Mr. Anietie Udoh, said in a letter dated May 12, 2017, a copy of which was seen by our correspondent, Kachikwu had directed the union to suspend its industrial action.
In the letter addressed to the union’s national general secretary, he said, “Please note that as a branch under the supervision of the national leadership and a subset of the PENGASSAN NEC, we hereby restate our absolute commitment to the NEC resolution dated May 2, 2017 and the national president’s directive.
“Consequently, PENGASSAN MPN Branch rejects in totality the ministerial directive in the referenced letter and assures you of our total commitment to the NEC resolution and further directive(s) from the national secretariat.”
The oil workers are protesting the alleged refusal of the oil major to honour an agreement that it will review the sacking of 83 employees in December and that none of the workers that participated in a protest in December will be sanctioned for their actions.
Our correspondent gathered on Monday that PENGASSAN had told its members to withdraw their services from offices and oil production facilities operated by upstream companies in Nigeria, in sympathy with striking employees of the local subsidiary of ExxonMobil, union and industry source said Monday.
“I think what is happening now is that they asked the PENGASSAN branches in the IOCs to do a three-day warning strike, which commenced today (Monday), in solidarity with the ExxonMobil branch of PENGASSAN to press home the fact that the union is serious about the matter,” the Chairman, PENGASSAN and NUPENG PIB Committee, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, told our correspondent.
Union officials locked workers out of offices at Shell, Eni and Chevron in Lagos, as well as the companies’ operational bases in the Niger Delta, Platts quoted officials of the IOCs as saying.
The union has also shut some of ExxonMobil’s production facilities in Akwa Ibom, a company source was said to have confirmed.
ExxonMobil produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
“The national executive of PENGASSAN at the weekend directed members to begin a strike at the international oil companies in solidarity with our members in Mobil Producing Nigeria,” the Chairman of the Lagos branch of PENGASSAN, Mr. Abel Agarin, was quoted by Platts as saying.
Industry analysts said the union action could deal a major blow to the nation’s bid to restore oil output following months of militant attacks on infrastructure that caused production to plummet to near 30-year low last year.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, according to a government official, has in the meantime referred the dispute between PENGASSAN and ExxonMobil to an industry arbitration panel for resolution, after failed attempts by the government to settle the matter.