Labour unions under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) have alleged that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) sacked 850 contract workers at the nation’s refineries. NNPC on its part has responded saying none of its workers was sacked.

The unions disclosed this on Monday in a joint statement signed by the National President, NUPENG, Comrade Williams Akporeha, and his counterpart in PENGASSAN, Comrade Ndukaku Ohaeri, as well as their general secretaries.

The statement was titled ‘NUPENG and PENGASSAN strongly react to comments by Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, on refineries and oil and gas workers’.

“On the purported threat of the Group Managing Director of NNPC to sack workers, we wish to state here that it was actually no more a threat but that it had already been carried out with the sack of 850 support staff in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, throwing almost a thousand workers into hard financial situation without an iota of empathy or consultation with the union,” it said.

The unions said they never threatened to go on strike, but that they only demanded to be engaged for a proper discussion on the commensurate terminal benefits of the workers who had worked for 10 to 15 years.

According to them, “We found it rather highly inhuman and unfair on the part of NNPC management to sack these workers with only their last paycheques after 15 good years of their lives in NNPC.

“If a Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Group Managing Director of NNPC can dismiss contract workers that have served for more than 10 years continuously as if they are rodents, what more can we expect from lOCs? The monthly salaries of 25 of these contract staff put together cannot equal a typical management staff salary of the same organisation.”

Meanwhile, in an interview, Dr Kennie Obateru, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, refuted labour allegation stressing that NNPC did not sack any workers.

“I’m sure they are referring to the termination of contracts between NNPC and some of its contractors at the refineries. Because the contractors have no more contracts with NNPC, it affected their workers. So, they are not NNPC workers and we did not sack our workers,” he said.