The ex-oil workers, who were over 300, stood for about two hours at the gate of the National Industrial Court in Port Harcourt, where they had instituted a case against their former company over the development.
The ex-oil workers lamented that the management of the company had unduly served them with redundancy letter without paying them their packages.
They claimed that the firm did not follow Nigerian Constitution before laying them off, adding that some of them had served the firm for 10 years before they were sacked.
Some of the inscriptions on the sacked oil workers’ placards read ‘Baker Hughes, pay us like Congo, Gabon, Chad, Cameroun’, ‘We make 60 percent market share in Nigeria’, ‘Please, pay us our redundancy package’ and ‘Baker Hughes, Nigerian employees are the leaders in the geo-market’.
One of them (protesters), who identified himself as Lawson, explained that having served the company for 16 years, he was surprised that he could laid off unceremoniously.
Lawson stated that most of those sacked by the company could no longer cater for themselves and their families as a result of the non-payment of their severance packages.
“We were all employed and everybody contributed to the success and growth of the company. We contributed in different ways to make sure that the company succeeded in Nigeria.
“At a stage, the company did everything possible and was able to proscribe union. The company forced us into what is called individual contract. Our worry is that we were forced to resign.
“Anybody who refused to sign that contract would be laid off. Because of the country that we are operating, you are not very sure if you would lose your job, you are going to get another one. So, we were forcefully made to sign the contract.
“In that contract, you were not told that there would be anything like redundancy in the first place. The contract did not state that. One day, the management just got up and said they were going to lay us off.
“We know that any company operating in any country would operate under the laws of the land. If there should be any redundancy, there is an act covering it, which means that before they can lay off anybody, the employee and the employer would have to have a negotiation.
“The two parties would agree so that it is well spelt out on the terms and the amount to be paid. Again, a representative from the Ministry of Labour has to be there. Baker Hughes didn’t do all these. They just started laying people off without following due process,” Lawson added.
Similarly, another former worker that was also laid off, John Ofoegbu, told newsmen that he was working when a letter came from the management of the company, directing him to leave the firm’s premises.
“I had worked for Baker Hughes for eight years. We are here in court to seek redress for the ill-treatment that was meted out on us by a company we loved so much.
“We expected them to obey the laws of the land. They should adhere to the laws of Nigeria. The Labour law states that there are steps to be taken before laying off a worker,” Ofoegbu added.
However, the National Industrial Court sitting in Port Harcourt adjourned the 277 suits filed before it by the disengaged workers of Baker Hughes Nigeria Limited till December 4, 2017, for hearing of preliminary objections by the firm, who is the defendant.
Justice Ibrahim Awal, who presided over the matter, also adjourned till November 13, 2017, 14 separate suits filed before it by widows of deceased workers, who died after being laid off by the firm.
The angry workers had approached the industrial court to prevail on the oil company to pay their redundancy package, which they put at over N13 billion.