His Lordship, Hon. Justice Elizabeth Oji of the National Industrial Court Lagos Judicial division has dismissed the case filed by Mr. Oyegbanren Ete and 2 others on behalf of Petroleum And Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Chevron Branch against Chevron Nigeria Limited over alleged redundancy for being pre-mature.
Justice Oji held that Chevron needs no approval from the Minister of Petroleum Resources before embarking on staff reduction or redundancy.
The Court further held that Oyegbanren Ete and others have not established that the Oil firm has breached the provisions of the Petroleum Minister Guidelines and have not tendered any document indicating that the firm has identified or communicated names of persons to be declared redundant to crystallize the application of the Guidelines.
From facts, the claimant- Oyegbanren Ete and others had submitted that sometime in October 2020 the firm decided to sack 25% of staff from the workforce without compliance with the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Guideline issued by the minister of petroleum that based on the industrial action embarked upon, the firm was compelled to suspend the implementation of the decision to reduce the workforce; and also that the company has to ensure that the written approval of the Minister of Petroleum Resources is first obtained before embarking on any staff reduction exercise as required by law.
In defence, the firm asserted that it is not bound by the Guidelines for the Release of Staff in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry that it informed the DPR of its intention to commence a reorganization that the approval of the Minister under the Guidelines is only to be sought when the workers to be made redundant have been identified; and that the workers to be declared redundant had and have not yet been identified urged the Court to dismiss the case for lacking merit.
Delivering the Judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Elizabeth Oji held that in a contract of employment, parties are bound by the agreement and the Court may not introduce any term or condition not agreed by the parties.
“In this case where parties have agreed on contractual terms, I have not found the legal justification to allow the Minister or his designate, to modify the terms by means of Directives, Circulars, Guidelines, and similar instruments.
“From the reproduced section 9 of the Substantive Act, the Petroleum Act, there is no provision enabling the Minister, or the Director on his behalf to make the provisions stated in these Guidelines.
“Based on all the reasons given above, I resolve the question submitted by the Claimant against the Claimant and hold that by virtue of the Guidelines for the Release of the Staff in the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry 2019, the Defendant OUGHT NOT to obtain the written approval of the Minister of Petroleum Resources before embarking on any staff reduction and or redundancy.”