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WALL STREET JOURNAL: Nigeria Unions Ask Pres To Probe Shell Plan For Job Cuts


By Vincent Nwanma



March 26, 2004 1:33 p.m.


LAGOS -- Nigeria's oil unions Friday called on the government to investigate plans by Shell Petroleum Development Company, the subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell Group (RD), to cut jobs.


The white-collar Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, and the blue collar National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers, or Nupeng, have also written to Shell management vowing to "resist" any planned job cuts, an official told Dow Jones Newswires.


"The whole thing is shrouded in a lot of secrecy and intrigues," said Bayo Olowoshile, a Pengassan official.


In a letter to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Olowoshile said the unions urged the government to invite the management of Shell "to find out what they are up to. If there is need to investigate the matter, then government should do that."


The unions also sent copies of the letter to the president of the Nigerian Senate, the Group Managing Director of state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNP.YY), and the Ministry of Employment and Productivity, according to Olowoshile.


Shell announced this week it would reduce its workforce in Nigeria as a result of a plan to boost crude oil output by about 500,000 barrels a day, and lower cost of production.


A statement quoted Chris Finlayson, SPDC managing director, saying that while the proposed plan would lead to job cuts, there was no basis for speculation yet.


However, employees of Shell said the company plans to cut the workforce by as much as 20%, while a local newspaper reported as many as 4,000 out of a workforce of 6,000 would be axed.


Olowoshile said; "If they try anything like that, we shall resist it with all ... our might."


Shell is the largest oil-producing company in Nigeria, with its output accounting for nearly half of the country's daily production.

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