11 April 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS — Nigeria’s Federal Government, Tuesday, summoned leaders of the two unions in the Power industry to an emergency meeting in Abuja on Friday over their threat to call members out for an indefinite strike from tomorrow to protest alleged breach of agreements and personal agenda being pursued by the Power Minister.
The unions, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) listed unpaid 50 per cent salary increase, regularisation of casuals, staff biometric verification exercise, winding down of corporate headquarters of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and recent sack of top executive officers of PHCN, including the General Manager, Human Resources, as part of their grievances.
NUEE and SSAEAC, which had written to the government about their intention to commence strike after April 11 (today) accused the Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, of unilateral actions detrimental to industrial peace and against known industrial relations best practices.
But aiming to stop the strike, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, asked the labour leaders to halt every industrial action in line with the extant labour law.
In the letter of invitation to the meeting by Wogu through Mrs C. C. Dike, Acting Director, Department of Trade Unions Services and Industrial Relations, the Labour Minister said: “In view of the very recent notice by your trade unions in a letter reference no. NUEE/SSAEAC/JAC/35/223/2012 dated April 5, 2012, to embark on an industrial action, I am directed to invite you to an emergency meeting scheduled to hold as follows: Date: Friday, April 13, 2012. Time: noon, Venue: Conference Room of the Honourable Minister of Labour & Productivity, Federal Secretariat Complex, Abuja.
“In view of the intervention by the Honourable Minister to ensure the amicable resolution of the points in dispute, you are advised to kindly be mindful of the provisions of Section 18 of the Trade Disputes Act, CAP T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, which prohibits strikes or lock outs where a dispute has been apprehended.”
The government had earlier been informed of plan to begin the strike after April 11 in a letter written by Joe Ajaero and Abiodun Ogunsegha, General Secretary of NUEE and General Secretary of SSAEAC respectively.
The letter read in part: “All agreements reached at the ongoing negotiation with the Federal Government team and the labour unions, under the chairmanship of Comrade Hassan Sumonu, were lopsidedly implemented, bringing severe pains to our members.”
“While it took the Ministry/Management of PHCN 6 months after a signed agreement to commence implementation of this head of agreement, payments up till this moment is done piecemeal. The payments in the Distribution companies are done in batches, old salary at a time and the 50% at another time. In most cases, the 50% increase batch has fallen into arrears of more than 3 months. All attempts to prevail on the Ministry and Management of PHCN to capture the increase on the old and pay once had fallen on deaf ears.”
“It was agreed during the first round of negotiations that ended in May 2011 that casuals in PHCN be regularised and integrated into employment. This issue had been badly handled by BPE who engaged the services of a consultant to conduct biometric verification on the casuals. Up till this moment, several of the casuals are yet to receive their letters of regularisation.
“Despite the fact that there was no agreement reached on verification of regular staff, the Ministry mandated staff to submit themselves for verification, for which the union encouraged them to. However, several of staff names who were at their duty posts during verification and took part in the exercise were missing from the list compiled by the Consultant. Those whose names were not included in the Consultant’s list were directed not to be paid salaries. Some staff remained without being paid salaries since December, 2011.”
“It was agreed in the last negotiation that the Corporate Headquarters of PHCN would only be wind down after the liquidation process of PHCN is completed, when the entity is finally windup. This was the agreement reached in our meeting of February, 2012.
“!However, the action of the Minister recently had negated the content and spirit of the agreement. The Minister had insisted that those that were transferred from the Corporate Headquarters be paid purportedly from the station where they were transferred and the LPC raised be sent in favour of the stations. This is in flagrant disrespect to a duly signed agreement.”
They added that “We decided to bring these matters to your attention and inform you that if these severe violations are not addressed by April 11, 2012, we shall be left with no option than to inform our members to stay out of their duty post.”