Robots are taking our jobs, oil workers cry out; As NUPENG appeals to NASS to pass remaining Petroleum Industry bills
The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has appealed to the National Assembly to pass other petroleum industry bills in spite of their passing the Petroleum Industry Governance bill.
Speaking at the 4th quadrennial delegates conference in Port Harcourt, on Friday, the immediate past President of the Union, Comrade Igwe Achese, said that there was a need to pass other petroleum bills as they compliment the Governance bill.
This, he said would sanitize and stabilize the petroleum sector.
The bills, he said, are the Environmental, Financial and Host Community bills.
On the theme of the conference, ‘Impact of Technology (Industry 4.0) on Industrial Relations in the Workplace’, the out-gone President, expressed concern that robots have come into the country particularly the Petroleum Industry to take away the jobs of workers.
“The theme is apt, topical and timely. Robots and automated machines have taken over our jobs especially in the multinational companies operating in Nigeria. This has led to massive job loses – complicating the unemployment situation in the country. In a nation where half of the population of our youths are unemployed, this calls for food for thought and has to be addressed holistically by all stakeholders in the oil and gas industry”, he said.
He, therefore, urged the stakeholders to ensure that humans are protected as they have a right to job and life’s necessities.
Also speaking at the conference, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by Hon. Kingsley Chinda, member representing Obio-Akpor Federal Constituency, expressed fear that the advent of robots would render many workers jobless and cautioned that no technology should be allowed to take away human value and dignity for the sake of technological advancement.
“There is no doubt that in a short time, this will impact heavily on labour content and workplace relationship and is likely to affect the dynamics and the human value and industrial value chain. Both low skill and high skill workers will be affected. So, it is not just that the ordinary labourer will be affected and the manager in the office thinks that he is safe. We will all be affected. The line continues to thin between the physical and digital. We must ensure we do not build a self destroying monster in the name of an industrial revolution or improvement. We must ensure that the industrial revolution is more of positive impact on the society”.
The Speaker commended NUPENG for their fore thought to brainstorm on the development that poses a threat to organized labour.
He, however, assured NUPENG that the National Assembly would stand with them in this period of technological challenges to labour.
He said that already the National Assembly was at the verge of reviewing the minimum wage, pointing out that the review does not preclude the executive and other stakeholders paying more than the minimum wage to ensure the happiness of workers.
He frowned at sticking to the minimum.
“We have considered a bill for the review of minimum wage of Nigerian workers. For me, what the National Assembly has said is a minimum of N18,000. There is no maximum. Do we actually need to review it? In as much as that bill is before the National Assembly, it is for a review of the minimum wage. But, I want to put it on record that the executive arm has the leverage by way of policy to pay something higher than N18,000 as minimum. But, you find a situation where as soon as the law sets a minimum, nobody wants to go above the minimum”, he said.
In his own speech,Governor Nyesom Wike said technology is vital for faster development of the oil and gas industry, but noted that employers and labour leaders must find the right balance.
“The fact that the impact of technology may upset labour – employer relations makes the management of technological change in the workplace one of the most challenging problems in industrial relations”.
“The challenge before this conference is to find suitable solutions that can be adopted to safeguard industrial harmony and prevent the undue disruptions and dislocations in industrial relations that often result from the impact of technology in the workplace”, he said.