The looming strike by workers in the oil and gas sector has been averted as the federal government has shelved its earlier decision to sell the nation’s four refineries.
The government would now work with the unions in the oil sector to formulate workable business models and strategies for the refineries.
The Turn Around Maintenance (TMA) which is already in process by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources would be continued.
These were part of the resolutions reached at the end of a meeting yesterday night with the unions in the oil sector convened at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, in Abuja.
In attendance were his Petroleum Resources counterpart, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, President, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), Mr. Igwe Achese, President, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Mr. Babatunde Ogun, Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries Labour and Petroleum Resources, Dr. Clement Illoh and Mr. Danladi Kefasi and national executive members of the two unions.
The resolution, which was read by Wogu, was signed by the Alison-Madueke, NUPENG and PENGASSAN Presidents, Igwe Achese and Babatunde Ogun and the General Secretaries of the union.
“Trade unions in the oil and gas sector of the economy namely NUPENG and PENGASSAN have agreed with the federal government to engage in social dialogue to develop viable and workable business models for the nation’s refineries,” he read.
“Based on the above understanding, the trade unions in the oil and gas sector shall not embark on any form of industrial actions over the subject matter.”
The unions in the oil sector were poised to down tools this month if the government goes ahead with the planned sale of the nation’s four refineries.
The meeting scheduled for 2p.m. started at 4p.m. after the two ministers held a closed door meeting which lasted for over an hour with the presidents of the union.
At the commencement of the meeting with the other NEC officials, Wogu said: “We want to find a common ground to resolve the problems in the oil and gas sector, you all know the issues at stake but we would ensure that we reach a compromise to avert any strike in the sector.”
Alison-Madueke on her part, said the meeting with the oil unions was ‘absolutely critical’ on topical issues raised in the last few days.
All parties then went into another meeting that was closed to the press.
During a short break at about 5.45p.m., an official who spoke off record, told THISDAY that the government would not sell the refineries if the unions insist.
“The petroleum minister just said if the unions say no, then the government would not sell the refineries. But she is also raising concern about the long term effect of that,” the official said.
The official added that if the refineries are not sold, there has to be process to ensure they operate optimally, and all stakeholders, including the unions have to be carried along in the process.