Nigerian workers and contract staff of Samsung Heavy Industries Mega Construction and Integration Free Zone Enterprise, Nigeria (SHI-MCI FZE) have downed tools at the Total Egina FPSO project, which they are currently working on, over an alleged ill-treatment and little or no welfare packages they get from their Korean employers.
Some of the workers, according to report gathered, have been working on the site since the Total Egina FPSO project kicked off in 2014.
The Egina FPSO (Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading Unit) project is ranked one of the biggest FPSO project in the world with an estimated storage capacity of over 2.3million barrels of crude oil and a daily production capacity of over 200 thousand barrel of crude.
According to a worker who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons said it is quite unfortunate how they, Nigerian workers are being victimized and maltreated by foreigners in their own country.
Such issue could be overlooked if a Nigerian is ill-treated abroad, but not in Nigeria, he said.
He further called on Nigerian authorities to see to the matter of the injustice done to us (Nigerian workers), as foreigners in Nigeria are oppressing them, while no one is doing anything about it.
A worker who also refused to be named quoted the contract signed with the Nigerian Local Content Law that the ratio of workers ought to be 10 Nigerians to two Koreans, but in SHI-MCI nothing of such, as the ratio of Nigerians to Koreans are almost the same. Due to this, some Koreans are hidden in a container to reduce their number anytime dignitaries like ministers or senators visit the site, so that the visitors don’t know the Koreans flooded the yard.
According to the protesting workers, what led to the recent protest is that the present Koreans who head the company for the project refused to give workers who have worked on the project payoff before they are discharged, which is the normal practice in projects. This is not the case with any of the Korean workers in the same project, as they are said to be well paid and also enjoy other benefits, which the Nigerian workers are denied.
It was also alleged that the Koreans at the Production and management level head all the department/disciplines as the Nigerian workers are usually reminded by the Koreans that they (Koreans) come first before Nigerians.
However, all Nigerians, including graduates, masters holders, and skilled workers are rated below the least Korean, irrespective of their skills or qualification, who are in most cases barely educated and cannot communicate in English, the official language for the project. The Nigerians are said to carry out all the hard labours and the Koreans are meant to give instructions that the workers are expected to follow even if it means carrying out the task that could harm them.
One of the workers said that they were instructed to refer to the Koreans as master.
The protesting workers also highlighted other reasons for their grievances, including the salary and entitlements, which they said the margin between the Nigerians’ and Koreans’ is incomparable. The workers are paid meager, despite the risk of going to work via boat, as the work site is located Ladol Free Zone an island in the middle of the sea. The Koreans receive milestone bonuses and the Nigerians that do the hard labour don’t.
The Koreans are reportedly chauffeured from their accommodation to the work base and with meals three times daily. They are also paid monthly stipend and entitled to airtime for their phones, aside their monthly salary, the Nigerians are left to find their ways to the jetty point regardless of where they are coming from and are expected to be in the work yard on or before 7:30 am in other to attend toolbox talk, as late coming attracts query (warning letter) and subsequently dismissal.
There are also no welfare packages for the Nigerian staff at the Samsung Heavy Industries. The Koreans maltreat and abuse the Nigerians physically, which when any of the Nigerian staff attempt to speak against could lead to a sack.
The Koreans have their separate canteen from the Nigerians, where all they need are made available for them, while the Nigerian’s are served in an unhealthy manner. And because of the poor hygiene and the poor quality of food, a lot of Nigerians don’t bother to go for lunch. The boat situation is such that the Nigerians struggle to leave the work site early after work because of the unavailability of a boat. Some of the Nigerians even stay at the jetty till 7 pm after the close of work waiting for a boat to take them out of the base and finally get home as late as 10 pm because of traffic situation whereas the Koreans are already well rested in their accommodation and dinner already awaiting them. And most of the Nigerians are up again by 4 am the next day to continue the daily routine.
One of the staff said that “I understand that this is the price to pay for having a job, but my grievances are why don’t the Koreans even want to make little efforts to alleviate the suffering of their Nigerian staff. They can afford to get staff buses to different locations for the Nigerians like they do for the Koreans and like other companies do, but they don’t even care.
“The same company gives 6months maternity leave to their female workers in Korea but here in Nigeria you are entitled to only 3 months maternity leave and after that, you are not expected to go for any kind of leave, whether annual or sick leave,” a female staff said.
A female staff whose job is majorly in the office talked on the payoff, saying that, “Normal practice in the same sector is that at the end of the project there should be payoff for all the staff and one will think that a project of this magnitude the payoff is going to be mind-blowing, but unfortunately, the Nigerians are not entitled to payoffs while the Koreans are.
“All these and more inhumane treatment melted on the Nigerians have caused them to cry out today in a peaceful protest at the work site,” she said.
The workers hence called on the Koreans and all the Nigerians representative and those in authority, including The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC to look into all the issues, so as to see to the end of maltreatment melted on the Nigerian workers, especially in foreign-owned companies.
Attempt to speak with Ikechkwu Ugbaja, the Human Resource Manager of the company, proved abortive as he refused to talk with the press, saying, “this was not the best time to talk, I am in a meeting at the moment”. His number was not reachable at the second attempt after two hours.
Below are photos from the site during the protest: