In the letter titled “Appeal for Support and Urgent Intervention”, the aggrieved workers pleaded with PENGASSAN, Department of Petroleum |Resources (DPR) and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) to wade into the situation to save their jobs.
Read the letter here…
Cc : DPR, NAPIMS
APPEAL FOR SUPPORT AND URGENT INTERVENTION
This letter would have come earlier, we painfully but sincerely admit, especially when we initially nurtured the thought of starting the Union in our entity. But for reasons which we would in the latter part of this letter highlight, we opted to defer the establishment of the Union for a more opportune time.
It is however inevitable at this time, under this strenuous circumstance, to make to you a clarion call, for desperate times call for desperate measures.
The information may have filtered through to you – by way of news or rumour – of how Oando Energy Resources (OER) have slashed a significant percentage of its work force, but we would also like to formally communicate that to you as well as the true situation of things.
On Monday, 30th of November, 2015, the CEO of OER, Mr. Pade Durotoye, called and Emergency Townhall Meeting of all OER staff at about 4:40pm. The meeting served the purpose of communicating Management’s intention to immediately embark on a retrenchment exercise. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, till 5:00pm (i.e. COB). The staff to be affected would be communicated by way of letters, the following day Tuesday, 1st of December, 2015. It was like a bombshell and rendered the entire work floor cold with eerie silence and shell shock.
This announcement came just few weeks after the Group Chief Executive of Oando Plc, Mr Jubril Adewale Tinubu, in a townhall/video conference prior to the public release of the company’s 2014 Consolidated Financials, made a categorical statement that no Oando staff would be fired for any reason relating to the current business climate and bad business fortune occasioned by the falling oil prices which led to huge impairment losses with significant final loss on the books. Suffice here to say that the action to sack staff is a direct betrayal of the earlier assurances.
On Tuesday the 1st of December 2015, before 9:00am, the Chief Human Resource Officer, Mr. Ademola Ogunbanjo, came with the letters to the open work space, called staff to gather round and one after the other handed the letter to staff. Those who were retained got letters titled ‘Notice of Continued Service’ while those affected got letters titled ‘Notice of Redundancy’. About 90% of peopled fired were officers. Most managers retained their jobs.
We would hereby highlight our grievances, in no particular order or preference, whilst appealing to your good offices for urgent intervention:
The staff had been assured that no one will be sacked. This assurance had made a number of staff now affected, already prospecting other opportunities to put aside getting another job. This is blatant insincerity and directly oppositional to one of the company’s core values – Integrity;
The notice of redundancy was too urgent, hasty and of immediate effect;
The severance package is too meagre. The amount offered to each affected staff is less than 9% of the Annual Gross Salary;
Staff were not given enough time to handover and clear personal documents. Staff were denied access to the network and work station as early as from Friday the 4th of December 2015, a date earlier than the effective date stated on the letter being 31st December 2015;
Cost cutting and general expense reduction drive was among reasons cited for the downsizing. However, the cadre of staff mainly affected is the lower level comprising the least earners in the company. The highest earners all retained their jobs;
All staff affected have not been found wanting in terms of performance and dedication on the job. Performance on the job, going by the formal appraisal system and the company’s HR Policy, was not a yardstick that was used. One of the company’s slogan it might interest you to note is that the company is a ‘Performance Driven’ organization;
The basis for the exercise was not at any time explained. It remains unknown why those who were affected were dropped;
The distribution of letters was done as a roll call in full public glare of every member of staff rather than the more dignified way of calling staff one by one in private;
Some of the affected staff were poached from other companies less than six months ago, and they are already being evicted from the job they have sacrificed so much for;
As a company that parades itself as proudly African, it is quite ironical that only Nigerians were fired while the foreign expatriates are not affected. This is a seeming violation of Section 10 of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (“NNPC”) Act, Sections 9(1) (b) and 12(1)of the Petroleum Act and Section 28 of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Act, which generally provides that Nigerians shall be given first consideration for employment and training in the oil and gas industry;
As a company that claims to be world class, the least expected is to give a just compensation (as similar companies that have embarked on such exercise would do) and handle the process with utmost dignity and respect for human beings. This is not the case;
A few months ago, staff of the company thought of establishing a union having attained the required quorum. Management, on getting the wind of this called for a meeting, asking staff to set up a committee, which would represent an informal union, with the assurance that the committee would be accorded with the same seriousness and respect deserving. The first sign of insincerity was when 40% of elected members of the committee were forced to step down by the HR office and replaced with their own selection. The second sign was when every recommendation put forth by staff via the committee was turned down, and in exchange, HR issued out letters of what they felt they were willing to give – all be it – even without reaching any form of agreement with staff. After seeing so many staff unceremoniously laid off, a member of the management executive confessed to how the whole committee set up was intentionally orchestrated to derail staff from joining the Union;
The DPR ‘Guidelines and Procedures for the Release of staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry’ (‘The 2015 Guidelines’) requires the approval of the Minister of Petroleum Resources for the release of employees from their job. We do not believe that the Minister’s consent has been obtained by OER in laying off staff;
We believe that the retrenchment exercise is malicious, ill advised, undignified, unprofessional, and demeans the years and months of dedication and hard work the staff have put in whilst with the company.
We would like you to come to our aid and intervene in the situation in a spirit of solidarity. What we demand in addition to addressing the highlighted issues are:
OER to render an unreserved apology to affected staff for treating them with indignity;
That the severance package be reviewed to an amount obtainable in companies that have retrenched staff recently especially where the staff are unionized. At least four years’ gross pay would be acceptable;
OER to agree in writing that, should oil price return to at least $50/bbl, the affected staff who are still available would be reinstated since performance was not the basis for the pruning down exercise;
OER to maintain benefits due to staff throughout their search for another job;
OER to promise in writing not to victimise staff once the business fortunes reverse and staff are to be reabsorbed;
PENGASSAN to mandate OER to establish Union in the organization;
We have also attached herewith, some documents that give evidence to our story and support our claims.
We would like your candid advice as to the next steps while anticipating your fullest support, benevolence, solidarity and comradery as we weather the storm together.
One in heart and mind,
Brothers with a common debt
Aggrieved staff of OER.