Oil workers at a past strike. (Photo: courtersy)
The national staff employed by the Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC) are on a go-slow strike demanding the immediate implementation of the Unified Human Resources Policy Manual (UHRPM 2020).
On 22 February, South Sudan’s petroleum ministry and the oil sector’s joint operating companies signed a deal to harmonize and implement a unified human resource policy manual. Oil sector workers have in the last couple of years been intermittently laying down tools to protest what they termed unfair variances in pay between local and foreign workers yet they do the same work.
On 4 April, the DPOC National Staff (DNS), wrote a letter titled ‘Notice for industrial action on non-implementation of UHRPM-2020 by DPOC and its shareholders’ to the company president, Hisham Basar, and copied the petroleum minister Puot Kang Chol, other petroleum ministry and DPOC officials.
“Since foreign partners, through their secondees in DPOC, have usurped ministry of petroleum’s supervisory and regulatory role, which had emboldened them to ignore and disrespect directives, regulations, and laws of South Sudan with impunity; and as it was resolved in two General Assembly meetings held on 1 and 3 April 2022,” the letter read. “DNS decided to embark on peaceful and intermittent strikes till realization of full and immediate implementation of the UHRPM-2020 as per the council of ministers resolution and ministerial orders and directives.”
“The strike will commence on Wednesday 6 April 2022 and break on Monday 11 April 2022 then continue on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, should there be no any solution for the matter,” it added.
On 8 April, DPOC President Hisham Basar wrote petroleum minister Puot Kang notifying the latter about the strike by national staff.
“DPOC management has engaged and updated staff in the ongoing status of implementing the UHRPM 2020 however, there has been no consensus,” Basar wrote.
“The industrial action by staff, if prolonged will negatively impact production that will lead to monetary losses and unforeseen calamities. We kindly implore your counsel to resolve this issue with utmost urgency.” he signed off.
Some DPOC national staff Radio Tamazuj sounded out and who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals said they were striking to demand fair pay and so that the oil companies embrace and implement the unified human resources policy.
“Our demands are very simple. We want petroleum companies operating in South Sudan to respect the law per the new unified human resources policies. These policies were passed by the council of ministers and they instructed the ministry of petroleum to direct all the companies to operate based on these policies,” a local staffer said. “But since 2020, the companies have completely ignored this directive. The ministry (petroleum) wrote 3 ministerial orders for them to operate according to the new South Sudan human resource policy, but they simply just ignored them.”
“They (oil companies) came up with conditions and demanded that these conditions be met by the government first before they can implement the policy. So this is the reason for our strike,” he added.
Another local oil worker said from the time the government came up with the new policy and told the oil companies to stop the old human resources policy of Sudan of 2008, the oil companies stopped paying official salaries.
“They insisted that people should use the old (Sudan) policy and when we insisted that we need to operate based on the new South Sudan policy, they stopped our salaries and they came up with something called individual optional loans,” a local oil worker said. “That means that if you have a problem as an employee, you apply for a loan. Then they stopped our salaries. So we have been working from July 2021 up to this moment without any salaries. This triggered the strike.”
“In GPOC, they are called lump-sum loans. If you have an issue, you go and take that loan until the time when they will resolve this issue with the government. Taking loans the whole year has become a problem for us. We do not want to be indebted to the company,” he solemnly added.
Another employee said they were pushing for the implementation of the new human resource policy because it guarantees training for local staff, and promotion and gives access to loans.
“You can take land loans from the company to construct your house. Also, some allowances are supposed to be given based on these new HR policies. The policy does not even address the difference in salaries between foreign staff and nationals,” he said. “It only adds on the allowances. The only document that will address salary issues is the salary structures and the petroleum ministry is working and up to now they have not given it to the companies.”
Asked what the way forward is, he said the local staff will meet and decide.
“This will depend on all the staff. We normally meet and discuss what the way forward is. I think by next week they will sit and discuss and decide what to do accordingly. This is not an individual decision but it depends on the majority vote,” he said. “We do not have a union because they will come and intimidate the union and they might call off the strike. If there is anything, we decide as a national staff and take it up to the higher authorities in DPOC as national staff.”
On Monday 25 April, the DNS wrote the DPOC president another letter titled ‘Continuation of industrial action on non-implementation of UHRPM-2020 by DPOC and its shareholders’ in which they said that since their grievances have not been addressed, they will reactivate the intermittent strike on Tuesday 26 April for 3 consecutive days for all staff.
“Work shall be resumed on Friday 29 April 2022 for all staff,” the letter added. “The intermittent strike shall continue from Saturday 30 April 2022 for all staff should DPOC management and partners not commit to implementing the UHRPM-2020.”
“Should DPOC management and the partners continue to undermine its commitments, duties and the country’s approved laws and policies, DNS will be in the position to declassify and share all DPOC’s communications with the public and relevant authorities to enlighten how DPOC undermines, dishonor and disregards the laws, directives, and policies of the regulators and authorities,” the letter concluded.