Mission Complicated: The Unified Human Resource Policy Manual (UHRPM 2020) between Foreign Partners (FPs) and the Ministry of Petroleum in South Sudan

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By Ater Yuot Riak

In December 2020, the Ministry of Petroleum (MoP) launched the Unified Human Resource Policy Manual (UHRPM 2020) to replace outdated unfair Sudan Unified Human Resource Policy Manual (UHRPM 2008). In January 2021, the MoP issued directives to immediately implement the policy. Instead, the management of Joint Operating Companies (JOCs) namely, Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC), Greater Pioneer Operating Company (GPOC), and Sudd Petroleum Operating Company (SPOC) ignored the directives of the MoP. The partners mainly, Chinese and Malaysians, have concerns about the UHRPM 2020.

Anchored on South Sudan Labor Law, the UHRPM 2020 calls for bridging a wide and unacceptable remuneration gap between international and national workers. The gap runs in tens of thousands of dollars. It also calls for the reduction of expenditure of air tickets, accommodation, visas, and group life insurance for expatriates and secondees to reduce the operation cost. It further stated that the unification of salary structure among the JOCs shall be reviewed.

From 2018 to 2019, under the UHRPM 2008 the national workers in the JOCs started industrial actions demanding suspended and deleted allowances, loans and all other privileges. For instance, the Management Committee (MC) in DPOC reached an agreement with national workers but was later dishonored and trashed allegedly by the Foreign Partners (FPs). The same happened with national workers in the other two JOCs. This was what made the MoP act by launching the UHRPM 2020 with the intent to stabilize the oil sector.

Throughout the year 2021, the national’s workers in the oil sector have battled with JOCs over the full implementation of the UHRPM 2020. The national workers laid down their tools both at the headquarters in Juba and at the oil fields several times. They have been demanding for the harmonization of salary structure fair to both national and international workers, allowances, loans, social insurance fund among others.

On February 21, 2022, the MoP and the partner’s oil companies reached a deal in a Press Conference to fully implement the UHRPM 2020. As a result, the MoP sent directives to all JOCs to implement the UHRPM 2020 with immediate effect. Dishonorably, the (FPs) namely, China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), Malaysia PETRONAS, China SINOPEC and Tri- Ocean produced a provocative letter which conditioned the implementation of the signed agreement to a set of five (5) conditions. Among them was the formation of a joint committee constituted by members of FPs and MoP to review and amend the UHRPM 2020 (which is a law) not later than six (6) months. Formation of another joint committee to restore their “economic rights” to their previous level had reforms (UHRPM 2020) not taken place among other conditions. In response to the MoP directive that was supposed to be the final, the three JOCs sought another approval from their respective country managers, who signed the agreement with MoP, to go ahead with implementation of the policy per their previous agreement. The FPs responded to three JOCs requests to wait for the further directives since discussion is going on between MoP and FPs. This is all after they have already declared it on the National Television (SSBC) that they reached an agreement with the MoP.

In their letter received by the MoP March 2, 2022, the FPs requested for the conditioned the implementation of the UHRPLM 2020 to the following conditions:

1) Approval of all existing and future applications including renewal of FPs secondees assigned to JOCs.
2) Reinstatement of FPs Manpower Tariff payment which has been suspended in October 2021 pursuant to the existing Manpower Tariff Rate.
3) Continuation and acknowledgement of long standing practices since the establishment of the JOCs in 2012 relating to the FPs secondees benefits to JOCs, including the flight tickets, rotational leaves and accommodations.
4) Continuation and acknowledgment of the FPs existing Manpower Tariff Rate.
5) Restoration of the FPs economics rights and benefits as per Exploration and Production Sharing
Agreement (EPSA) and the Transitional Agreement (TA).

Intentionally, the FPs have violated the resolutions of the Council of Minister No: 08/2021 held on Friday, June 18, 2021 and several ministerial orders submitted by the MoP. The last order issued was No: 02/2022. Further, the FPs continue undermining the sovereignty of the country by dishonoring the agreement they reached in a Press Conference with the MoP on February 21, 2022. However, after this meeting, the FPs secretly sent letters instructing JOCs not to start implementation. It was a deception action by the FPs.

This has desperately angered the national workers in the oil sector. Therefore, the national workers are requesting the FPs to immediately implement the resolutions of the Council of Ministers together with the last issued ministerial order and the agreement they reached with the MoP. The national workers have been without salaries since July 2021. They are patiently depending on the Optional Individual Loan (OIL). The National workers are looking forward to the full implementation of the UHRPM 2020 and harmonization of the wide gap salary structure between national and foreign staff that was approved by Council of Ministers Resolutions’ and the country leadership.

Biography of the Author
Ater Yuot Riak is a South Sudanese Oil & Gas Industry Professional and Secretary General of the Workers Trade Union of Petroleum and Mining in South Sudan. Ater holds a Doctorate Degree (Ph.D.) in Electrical Engineering, Aalto University, Finland. He is a member of the Academic Staff University of Juba, School of Engineering. Email: [email protected]