BPE, Manitoba begin talks with protesting TCN staff

*Electricity workers still cautious

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

26 July 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – Officials of the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, and the new management contractor of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, Manitoba Hydro International have sought to thaw the frozen relationship with electricity workers, preparatory to the scheduled assumption of duty of the new management contractor on Monday July 30, 2012.

Electricity workers under the aegis of the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had protested the takeover of TCN by the Canadian firm.

But at a session which was conducted by top officials of BPE and Manitoba Hydro in Abuja on Thursday, the officials said they were committed to ensuring a seamless operational transition to the management contractor and as well obtain the cooperation of staff of the utility.

It was also done to sensitise, allay fears and secure the commitment of the staff in view of their hitherto vehement opposition to the three years management contract of TCN recently signed between the Federal Government and Manitoba Hydro International.

According to terms in the contract, Manitoba is expected to within the period ensure seamless stabilization of the national grid, reduce electricity losses during transmission, provide for the achievement of certain predetermined targets that would improve grid security and general performance as well as a reorientation of the management culture of TCN Nigerian staff.

The contract also provides for achievement of certain objectives that include provisions for reward and penalty clauses as incentives for success, efficient management of government investments in the process, adequate and equitable generation dispatch according to a fair merit order based on sound regulatory principles, assurance of fair market settlements between electricity traders and skills and expertise transfer to Nigerian counterparts who will serve in deputy and other positions to the management staff of the management contractor.

Although, the workshop was not open to the press, our correspondent gathered that irrespective of the gesture and overture to win the staff of TCN to its new managers, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) was still apprehensive of government’s intentions as regards the settlement of outstanding labour issues to the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) from which TCN was unbundled from.

The North-Central Zonal Organising Secretary of the union, Mr. Temple Iworima who spoke over the phone, stated that the union was yet to let go on its demands irrespective of the workshop, adding that it is keeping its fingers crossed while further negotiations are concluded.

Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji had at the inception of labour protest over the Manitoba deal, stated that TCN was not privatised but contracted out for efficiency, insisting that staff of the utility will not receive severance package.

Accordingly, TCN is one of the successor companies created from the unbundling of PHCN; it combines the functions of a transmission services provider, a system operator and a market operator, all of which are central to the sustainability and development of the electricity sector.

The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) had on March 26, 2012, approved that Manitoba move into the next stage of in the process of selecting a management contractor for TCN; an agreement for a N3.72 billion ($23.72m) transmission management contract was then signed by the government and Manitoba on 23 July, 2012.

The company which was founded in 1961 is reported to be a major supplier of electric power and natural gas in the province of Manitoba, Canada and presently operates 15 interconnected generating stations.

It has more than 527,000 electric power customers and more than 263,000 natural gas customers with a total of 9,089 km of transmission lines throughout the province of Manitoba.

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