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Shell guilty of ‘fundamental rights violations’ of Nigerian contract workers

OIL giant Shell is guilty of “fundamental rights violations” by paying its Nigerian workers poverty wages and stringing them out on temporary contracts despite working for the company for up to 20 years, IndustriALL Global Union charged today.

The international trade union organisation released a report from a fact-finding mission that spoke to workers at the Umuebulu-Etche Flow Station, Port Harcourt.

Contract workers’ pay ranged from £106-£199 a month for 72-hour weeks, with some reporting that they were owed months of back pay.

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said at the firm’s AGM in May that workers could not be given permanent contracts because they were not needed all the time, but union investigators were told that many had worked continuously for the company for as long as two decades, with initial two-year contracts being extended by three or six months a time for years on end.

Many contracts were signed by Shell with “community leaders” who would then supply members of the community for work.

“If you ask for a pay rise, you will be escorted out by the police. No more access to the yard until you sign something saying you will not join a union and you will not ask for a pay rise,” one worker told researchers.

Another said: “Our salary at [contractor] Plantgeria is about 95,000 naira (£199). In Nigeria today, you can’t do anything on that. You can’t pay your children’s school fees.”

Nigeria has seen a sharp increase in fee-paying schools in recent years, with firms such as Bridge International Academies receiving British foreign aid funds to set up private schools in the country.

Workers also complained that their health insurance is inadequate, one reporting: “We are exposed to all the hazards. We work in the fields. When we are sick and go to the clinic, they don’t treat you well because the money is too meagre.”

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said Shell needed to “live up to its own code of conduct and stop turning a blind eye to the human rights violations of contract workers at its operations in Nigeria.”

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