*NUPENG, PENGASSAN Suspend Action
*Diezani’s Intervention Political
The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have finally shelved its four day old strike in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at the weekend.
But investigation revealed that the strike which was due to refusal of the corporation to fund the close pension scheme was as a result of the inability Board of the NNPC to sit for over a year now.
The two unions had directed their members in the NNPC to down tools since Tuesday, last week for what they refer to as the refusal of the NNPC to fund the closed pension system operated within the corporation.
However, the strike affected all the subsidiaries of the NNPC including the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company, Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC), Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company (WRPC), NETCO, Nigeria Gas Company (NGC).
Others are HYSON, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) , National Petroleum Investment Management t Service (NAPIMS), Integrated Data Services Limited (IDSL), AND Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
Speaking with MMS Plus Weekly before the strike was shelved, Comrade Babatunde Oke, the Media and Information Officer of PENGASSAN, he said that the refusal was not the fault of the management but the Board which has refused to sit for over one year.
He said “One thing is clear; it is not the fault of the management but the fault of the board that has refused to sit for over a year now. So the issue had been put together but the board has not sat to give a go ahead on the implementation of the payment”.
Explaining the cause of the strike, Comrade Oke said, said “The demands of the workers were adequate and regular funding of the closed Pension System, immediate step to carry out Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) on the four refineries as agreed between government and the two unions, NUPENG and PENGASSON and restoration of crude supplies to the refineries”.
He however had said that the strike would continue until there is a concrete commitment from the management of NNPC to find a lasting solution to the issues even as he stated further that the issue had gone beyond granting of a one year grace to NNPC by PENCOM but NNPC management should put in place machinery that will automatically fund the pension system without any bureaucratic bottleneck.
But speaking with our correspondent on phone, a senior executive of NUPENG who does not want his name on print said, the management had agreed to pay up the money they owe the workers within one year.
He stated further that the TAM the workers are clamouring for has been promised to be carried out within the shortest possible time. He said the issue had been a running battle between the management and the workers for almost four years now.
When asked how much is involved, he said he did not have the figure by heart but simply said, “It is a very very huge sum of money. “It is a huge sum of money. When you look at levels of salaries of workers at the NNPC which includes the eleven subsidiaries, it is a huge sum of money,” he said.
When asked what led to the strike, our source in NUPENG said the two unions had a running battle with NNPC on the issue of the pension scheme for employers sating that before the advent of PENCOM Act, NNPC had its own pension scheme that was well funded and managed but when PENCOM came, they applied for closed pension administration and were granted the license to continue to manage their pension scheme.
He added that along the line, NNPC stopped the funds and there were gaps which could lead to the collapse of the system and when that happened, both workers that are in employment and those that were already drawing pension would be in jeopardy.
While speaking, Com. Oke who said he could not ascertain the actual amount of the money as at 2014, stated that the amount was about N134 Billion in 2012.
Meanwhile, the unionists have said that the strike has only been suspended while awaiting action from the government in order to be able to know the next step to take.
However, the intervention of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke has been described in some quarters as politically motivated.
She was said to have prevented the looming scarcity which the industrial action would have caused and thereby creating a minus for President Goodluck Jonathan at this critical period of his bid to come back.