By Ayobami Adedinni
The Nigerian Employers Consultative Council (NECA) has disagreed with the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) over the recent threat by NUPENG to embark on a nationwide strike.
NUPENG had in a statement last week threatened to embark on a nationwide strike if its demand for reinstatement of its over 3,000 sacked members was not met within 21 days.
In a chat with Nigerian NewsDirect, the Director-General Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo said NUPENG has to prove that the companies breached its trust by sacking its members. In his words, “The law is very clear as to the process and procedure to be followed when a company wants to lay off its staff and before you can describe any of such exercise as inappropriate, the company would have been found to be in breach of this procedure. What NUPENG needs to prove is that by laying off their staff, the companies actually breached this procedure. Only on that stand can NUPENG evoke the process of dispute settlement. It is not an issue for which NUPENG should go on strike”.
“So, what NUPENG should be telling the government or telling the public is that whether these companies followed procedures which include payment of terminal benefit, redundancy benefits to staff that are so affected whether the company equally discussed with NUPENG. These are components of the procedure”.
According to him, companies have a right to reduce its staff strength if it so wishes. “Our system of industrial relations does not make it a matter of necessity for the companies that want to downsize to consult NECA. It is only if they are at a loss on how to go about the process that they can seek NECA’s advice.”
He went further by saying its member-organisations may not actually be following its Guidelines in the laying off of staff members. “NECA has what is called Memorandum of Guiding which it sends to its members from time to time on wide ranging issues which include managing redundancy. So, we want to believe that our member countries do not want to do that whenever it becomes necessary for them to lay off their staff”.
“Like I said, if any of these companies have breached this procedure, the next action of the union should not be to go on strike. We have a law in Nigeria as to how to manage such labour issues. NUPENG should follow that procedure in resolving this issue rather than go on strike. It is the very last action that the union should be expected to take”.
On whether NECA had powers to sanction any of its erring members, he said “Absolutely, we don’t have the power to invoke sanction on any erring member. All we can do is send a letter of reprimand but in terms of real sanction, we allow the law to take its course”.
However, he urged NUPENG to invoke the Dispute Settlement Procedure. “The first step is to invoke the Dispute Settlement Procedure and that extent will be for them to take recourse to the federal ministry of labour on the dispute in question. That is what we advise and appeal to them to do.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) proved abortive as there was no response to calls and message made to the Chairman, Bank Anthony Okoroafor and also to the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Nik Odinuwe