THE Federal Government will today resume negotiation with the Ayuba Wabba-led faction of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, following Sunday’s suspension of its nationwide industrial action to force government to reverse the pump price of petrol to pre-May 11 price of N86.50 from the current price of N145 per litre. The government had earlier insisted that until the faction called off its strike, there would be no further negotiations after both parties have failed to reach agreement at their last meeting on Tuesday May 17.
It would be recalled that the government had earlier reached an agreement with both the Joe Ajaero-led faction of NLC and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria. Confirming the meeting in a statement yesterday, Samuel Olowookere, Deputy Director, (Press), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment said: “The negotiation between the Federal Government and Comrade Ayuba Wabba-led NLC will reconvene tomorrow (today) by 2:00 pm and the venue is the conference hall of Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”
Meanwhile, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Tuesday suspended its planned nationwide strike that would have commenced today following intervention by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
PENGASSAN had threatened industrial action over issues of Joint Venture Cash Call, (JVCC) the arrears of which have not been paid to the Joint Venture partners, prompting the International Oil Companies (IOCs) threats to lay off their Nigerian workers while refusing to pay some of their allowances due to an alleged shortage of cash. However in a conciliatory, pre-strike meeting yesterday in Abuja, Kachikwu briefed PENGASSAN and other stakeholders on the issue and what government was doing to address it.
According to the statement by Olowookere, Kachikwu explained that his Ministry was restructuring the operational modalities of the JVCC, especially in view of the low oil prices but assured the union, the JVCC partners and other stakeholders of positive and agreeable results when the meeting reconvened in late June. On his part, Senator Ngige who hosted the meeting promised that the Oil Industry Stakeholders’ committee dealing with the issues of labour malpractices such as long contracting of staff, casualization and unilateral declaration of redundancy by the oil contractors and the IOCs on the one hand, as well as the unnecessary and issuing of threats of strike by the unions would resume next month.
According to him: “We all recall that this committee was headed by the late Hon. Min. of State for Labour and Employment, Bar. James Ocholi but in view of the importance and the urgency of the committee, I will assume its full leadership in June to accelerate and bring its assignment to a fruitful completion, part of which is to generate some oil- labour regulations into laws for the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB .”
Responding, President of PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson thanked the two Ministers for the insightful responses to their agitations and assured that the union was quite satisfied with the position of government on issues in conflict and had decided to shelve the planned strike with immediate effect. Inputs from the Ministries of Finance, Budget and Planning, and that of Ministry Works, Power and Housing on other issues raised by the union are expected at the next meeting scheduled for the 23rd of June 2016.