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On casualisation and contract jobs in the Nigerian oil and gas sector

Recently, Swift Worldwide Resources, a global staffing company, released its latest report which placed Nigeria third and fourth among the ten highest paid contract jobs worldwide in the oil and gas industry, which Australia led in both distinct categories. The list according to the report was produced by analyzing Swift’s 250 contract positions in the oil and gas industry in 30 locations worldwide, for a total of 7,500 jobs.

Commenting on the report the company stated: “Both Iraq and Nigeria have seen unprecedented growth in industry activity, and workers there are compensated for the risks that come with working in the more dangerous areas, accounting for the increase in salary ranges”. The report added Salaries in the US are climbing, but salaries in these emerging markets are climbing faster “. It did not however, indicate whether those earning the high wages for the highly skilled technical jobs were expatriates or Nigerians, but we do know that the former, who are usually of the joint venture partners, often earn the most remuneration.

While the Swift Report has been celebrated in some quarters as a progressive and healthy development for the nation’s oil and gas industry, this Newspaper believes that such euphoria is misplaced, given the penchant of multinational and indigenous oil and gas companies operating in the country to indulge in the obnoxious and exploitative practice of employing Nigerians on contract and casual terms in contravention of the country’s Labour Laws.

The oil companies engage in casualisation, contract employment or outsourcing mainly for selfish reasons. They want to cut costs by all means and maximize their profit at the detriment of their local employees who are paid pittance without job security, compared to their compensation had they been employed as permanent staff with good conditions of service.

We totally condemn this practice, because it is a flagrant violation of a provision of the Labour Law which states that a worker should not be employed as a casual or contract staff for more than three months after which such should be staffed or regularised. There are reported cases of Nigerians employed as contract staff for 30 years!

To circumvent the law, the companies allegedly continue to engage workers on three months contract only to terminate them after the period and re-engage them repeatedly. Sadly, companies in the oil and gas sector are only observing the Labour Laws in the breach because the Ministry of Labour and Productivity whose duty it is to ensure that all companies operating in the country obey the law or are appropriately sanctioned have failed in their duty.

Before the 1970s, and 80s, the issue of casualisation and contract employment was mostly alien to the nation’s oil industry. But from the mid 80s till date the practice crept in and has been on the rise despite the local content policy of the federal government. We have the major industrial unions in the sector, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) to thank, because through their advocacy, for tackling the excesses of employers in the oil and gas sector over casualisation and contract employment. But there is a limit to what these trade unions can achieve against entrenched and powerful companies in the oil and gas sector who are bent on using their connections in government to exploit and short-change Nigerians in their own country.

Few years ago, following agitations by unions in the oil and gas sector, the Federal Ministry of Labour set up a technical committee to issue guide lines on outsourcing and casualisation issues in the oil and gas industry. Why is it that companies in the sector are not complying with the guidelines or Whatever happened to the labour inspectors from the Ministry of Labour who in years past went from one company to another inspecting and monitoring compliance with Labour Laws and guidelines and thereby detecting and punishing erring organisations? Such must be restored forthwith.

We urge the Minister of Labour and Productivity Emeka Wogu to ensure that extant Labour Laws against casualisation and contract employment are henceforth enforced, not only in the oil industry but nationwide. He should approach the national Assembly to strengthen existing laws where necessary to ensure that unfair labour practices are not only outlawed but the organisations in the breach are appropriately sanctioned. As a matter of expediency, we also call on the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) without further delay to enhance the operations of the nation’s oil and gas industry.

Daily Independent
Daily Independent
Published on:
September 15, 2014
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