Senior Nigerian oil workers’ union Pengassan has told its members to withdraw their services from offices and oil production facilities operated by upstream companies in Nigeria, in sympathy with striking employees of the local subsidiary of ExxonMobil, union and industry source said Monday.
The union directive, which threatens Nigeria’s bid to restore production back to over 2 million b/d, followed a failed attempt by the Nigerian government to mediate in the two week-old dispute between the Pengassan union branch of ExxonMobil and the management of the US major, over the sacking of more than 80 workers, a union official said.
Union officials have locked workers out in offices at Shell, Eni and Chevron in the commercial capital Lagos, as well as the companies operational bases in southern Niger Delta region, officials of the foreign companies told Platts by telephone.
The union has also shut down some of ExxonMobil’s production facilities in southern Akwa Ibom, a company source confirmed. ExxonMobil produces more than 300,000 b/d. “The national executive of Pengassan at the weekend directed members to begin at the international oil companies in solidarity with our members in Mobil Producing Nigeria,” Abel Agarin, chairman of the Lagos branch of Pengassan said.
Industry analysts said the union action could deal a major blow to Nigeria’s bid to restore output following months of militant attacks on oil infrastructure that caused the West African nation’s production to plummet to near 30-year low last year.
Nigeria’s Labor minister Chris Ngige has in the meantime referred the dispute between Pengassan and ExxonMobil to an Industry Arbitration Panel for resolution, after the failed attempts by the government to settle the matter, a government official said on Monday.
“After the union failed to attend the meeting called on two occasions last week by the Minister of Labour and that of the Petroleum Resources, the Labor Minister on Friday, referred the matter to the Arbitration Panel,” the official said. “This means all the parties in the dispute should maintain the status quo,” the official added.
Nigeria’s two powerful oil unions Pengassan and its junior counterpart Nupeng, have been at loggerheads with multinational companies over what they called unfair labor practices by the companies.
The Nigerian government, which in recent weeks stepped up peace talks with Niger Delta leaders and youths to end unrest in the region, has set the target of producing 2.2 million b/d of oil this year to help drag the country’s economy out of the recession it slipped into last year.