Senior oil workers in Nigeria under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) on Thursday threatened to shut down all oil operations by Sunday should the Federal Government fail to pay their salaries latest Friday.
The workers made this threat in a protest which started peacefully on Wednesday but snowballed into threats when they gathered at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State, in continuation of their three-day warning strike.
The protesters who were dressed in red attire carried placards which read “No To Forceful Enrollment into IPPIS”, “Release Our Salaries Now or No Dialogue”, “We Are Not Against IPPIS but Create Another Platform That Address Our Peculiarities”, amongst others.
Audu Oshiokhamele, vice chairman, Warri Zonal Council of PENGASSAN and secretary of Regulators Forum, who addressed the protesting workers, warned that if their salaries were not released by Friday then all oil operations would be shut down by midnight of Sunday.
“I want to assure you, our Union members, that if our salaries are not released before Friday, by 12 midnight on Sunday we will shut down the whole nation. What we are just doing now is a warning protest but by Sunday, the music will change,” he warned.
Oshiokhamele, who was in company of James Esiomor, PTI branch chairman of PENGASSAN, and Ejokirhie Jahpurpose, chairman of PTI branch of NUPENG, expressed surprise that the Federal Ministry of Finance reportedly claimed ignorance of non-payment of their salaries in the last three months but now making efforts to placate the union.
“We are surprised that the Ministry of Finance, on Wednesday, denied that they are not aware that our salaries have been stopped. Why they are making every efforts to see how they can placate the Union. They can’t placate us until our salaries are paid,” he said.
The Warri Zonal Council vice chairman of PENGASSAN noted that the only solution to their threat is for the Federal Government to pay the salaries of the protesting workers by today before they can return for negotiations on the IPPIS issue.
While noting that they were not against the implementation of the IPPIS policy, Oshiokhamele said that what they are clamouring for is the creation of another platform that will take care of peculiarities in their operations which is different from that of core civil servants.
He recalled that the issue was first raised concerning their work peculiarities in 2016 when a tripartite committee was set up under the then Minister of Trade without success because the Director of IPPIS failed to attend meetings to find a solution.
“Again, in November last year, another committee was set up in other for us to ensure that the peculiarities under the Federal Ministry of Petroleum are captured and still nothing has come out of that. We can’t operate under IPPIS as put in place now because no two workers earn the same salaries. All our salaries are performance driven.
“All efforts to meet IPPIS director to simulate how he is going to capture our peculiarities has failed. Enough is enough, we can’t be slaves in our own country. If by tomorrow we don’t get our salaries, rest assured that we will shutdown all oil operations. That’s the only language they understand,” he added.
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