The management of Chevron Bangladesh threatened to take disciplinary actions against its employees when they sought clarification on the transfer of the company's ownership on Tuesday, a Chevron employee told the Dhaka Tribune.
“They threatened to take disciplinary actions and even terminate employment when some of the leaders of our union [Chevron Bangladesh Employee Union (CBEU)] including President Md Nasim Azim and General Secretary SM Shahriar Abedin went to the headquarters today [Tuesday] to speak to the management,” said the employee, requesting anonymity.
“Not only did they threaten them, but the management also held the union leaders captive for a few hours on the management floor, blocking the lifts and the staircases,” the employee added.
The union leaders had gone to the management to ask whether they had the government's permission to make the transition of the company's ownership.
A subsidiary of US-based oil giant Chevron, Chevron Bangladesh operates under production sharing contract at three onshore gas blocks in Sylhet.
On April 24, Chevron announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Chevron Global Ventures Ltd, had entered into an agreement to sell the shares of its wholly-owned indirect subsidiaries operating in Bangladesh to a Chinese consortium named Himalaya Energy Co Ltd.
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As the word got out, the employees of Chevron Bangladesh began voicing their concern over their employment and benefits.
On Tuesday, the CBEU leaders along with their legal adviser went to the higher management of the company as there is a possibility that the government may not approve the transition, the Chevron employee said.
But instead of speaking to them, Chevron Bangladesh Operations Director Gordon Murray, who is currently working as a transition manager, warned that if the employees did not go back to their work stations, the management would take disciplinary actions, or even terminate their employment.
“Hearing that our leaders had been forcefully confined to the management floor, all of us gathers on the floor below and peacefully requested that they be released,” the employee said.
Some local leaders then intervened and assured the employees that they would convey the employees' concerns to the management.
But later in the day, the management sent out an email to its staff reiterating the threat.
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“They [the management] were very aggressive,” said CBEU General Secretary SM Shahriar Abedin. “They made half-hearted offers to the employees, but considering the uncertainties, the CBEU placed an industrial dispute under Clause 210 of Bangladesh Labour Act. Since then, Chevron Bangladesh management has been saying that no compensations will be provided to its employees.”
But Chevron Bangladesh Communications Manager (External Affairs) Shaikh Jahidur Rahman says that is not the case.
“After six months of engagement with employee representatives, the Chevron Bangladesh announced a generous package of benefits that would be provided to all employees in the event of a concluded sale,” he said.
The package includes guaranteed employment for two years and a goodwill bonus payment equivalent to nine-months’ salary, he added.
“Regretfully, employee representatives have refused to accept this benefits package and have instead elected to declare an industrial dispute with the company,” he added.
CBEU leaders said they aimed to work within the law of the land, protect national interest, and ensure uninterrupted gas supply in the country; they are also committed to protest any activities that goes against national interest.