Nigerian trade union protests expat hirings after local sackings

Published:  21 Dec at 6 PM
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The trade union for Nigerian workers in the oil and gas industry is protesting against the sacking of local workers and their replacement by high-salaried expats.

Nigeria’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) is up in arms over the sacking of its members and their replacement by expatriates on generous contracts. The association’s target is ExxonMobil, one of the largest companies in the Nigerian sector. In a statement noted by online industry news site The Cable, the company authorised the laying off of 150 local workers and replaced them with around 50 foreign oil and gas workers.

According to PENGASSAN branch chairperson Paul Eboigbe, in December 2015 ExxonMobil issued a voluntary SSP (special separation programme) which was agreed by the union under its Collective Bargaining Agreement as relevant to challenges in the industry. As a result, more than 50 expat oil and gas workers were brought in as a replacement for Nigerians whose contracts were ended, in spite of the huge cost involved.

Many of the new employees were on service contracts issued by foreign companies, involving far higher costs and going against ExxonMobil’s SSP cost-cutting claims. According to the union, an investigation proved that none of the sacked workers had been found wanting, including the General Manager who was replaced by an expatriate.

According to the union, 16 contracted foreign workers are being paid $1600 a day excluding benefits. ExxonMobil’s take on the row includes its declaration that all impacted employees were given enhanced leaving benefits over and above those stipulated in the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In addition, to aid the transition to other employers, post-employment support programmes were put in place for all those affected. Unimpressed by Exxon’s reassurances, the union is meeting with Nigeria’s minister of petroleum to insist the company MD is questioned over his ‘anti-Nigerian motives’.
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