PHCN workers warn against transfer to successor firms

Victor Ahiuma-Young
15 March 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS — THE three unions in the power sector, Wednesday issued a month-end ultimatum to government to, among others, halt the purported transfer of employees of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to successor companies by the Power Minister without concluding negotiations with labour.
The unions said that failure to heed the directive would lead to shut down of the sector.
Under the umbrella of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) and the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), the workers demanded that the status quo ante be maintained to uphold the status of PHCN corporate headquarters in line with the collective agreement.
Other demands include final settlement of the 50 percent balance of 137 percent negotiated salary increase jointly agreed with the ministry of power and management of PHCN, full payment of monetisation arrears and regularisation of casuals.
At a joint briefing at NUEE Secretariat, President of NUEE, Mansur Musa, lamented that government had reneged on the agreement that the transfer of workers to any succession company should be suspended pending the final liquidation of PHCN when all labour issues would have been resolved.
He described the action of government as illegal and a gross violation of the laws of the country and stated that government was inconsistent in its action in view of the fact that decisions are being taken to wind down PHCN headquarters by transferring its workers to succession companies when negotiations are yet to be concluded.
According to him, “We had agreed in the last round of negotiation that the Corporate Headquarters of PHCN shall remain with full complement of staff until the final liquidation of PHCN when all the labour issues have been resolved.
“Barely one week after this agreement was reached, the power ministry directed that Last Pay Certificates (LPCs) of employees purportedly transferred to new companies be raised and issued. Though, government agreed that PHCN cannot be liquidated without complying with the required legal process but it amounts to inconsistency if action is being taken to wind down its headquarters by transferring its workers out without concluding the negotiations and its implementations.
“Status quo ante should therefore be maintained to uphold the sanctity of PHCN headquarters in line with collective agreement reached.”
Musa, who also accused the federal government of violating the collective agreement reached on the payment of arrears of salaries and pensions to employees in the sector, said the balance of 137 percent negotiated salary increase, was yet to be fully implemented.
According to him, “there is segregation of payment and in most cases; lopsidedness has been the order of the day thereby creating serious agitation and concern among the workers. He hinted that some staff have not received their January 2012 salary in full.
Corroborating these, President-General of SSAEAC, Comrade Bede Opara, faulted the biometric verification exercise by the ministry, stressing that regular staff that participated in the exercise were not all captured and cleared by the consultant saddled with the responsibility of verifying all employees in the power sector.
He said the affected staff had not been paid their monthly emoluments for over three months because they were been referred as ghost workers.
Opara said: “Several of such staff which included chief executive officers, general managers, national officers of the in-house union etc who are visible in their various work locations during the verification exercise were not captured and have been denied their monthly emoluments for over three months.
“This is a high level of insensitivity that an employer/government could deny its workers their legitimate remunerations and in-turn refers to them as ghost workers. This is just an attempt to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it.”
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