Ultimatum: PHCN workers step up preparation for strike

*Govt pleads for understanding

Eluonye Koyegwaehi

10 March 2013, Sweetcrude, Lagos – AHEAD of the March 15 deadline, leaders of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, gave the Federal Government to address a 10-point grievances, the union has begun massive mobilization of its members across the country for effective industrial action should government fail to meet its demands.

This came the Federal Government pleaded with the union for understanding in the current face-off triggered of by government announcement of the release and commencement of payment of N384 billion for Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, workers, which the union said is fictitious.

It would be recalled that leaders of NUEE at their National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja, issued a 14-day strike notice within which for government to address some identified grievances including the controversial N384 billion.

Speaking on the preparation for a showdown with government over the issues, President of NUEE, Comrade Mansur Musa, said leaders of the union at all levels had been directed to go back and mobilize members for effective industrial action should government fail to address member’s concern.

According to him, “They said they have released N384 billion for the payment of the terminal benefits for the “sacked PHCN workers”. It is a lie. They said they would start payment the next day, which is another lie. What they have succeeded in doing, is to ask kidnappers to go after our members. No matter the amount of blackmail, the government knows that our entitlements must be paid in full before any handover or take over.

These companies are our own. We have directed our members to get prepare to do the right thing if they are not ready to do the right thing, we will show them how to do the right thing. We have given them a reasonable time within which to commence and conclude implementation of all agreements.
The time we consider as reasonable, is over. They are politicians and we work in electricity industry. We are going to do give them electric shock to do the right thing.”

Announcing the ultimatum to government after the NEC meeting, the union’s General Secretary, Comrade Joseph Ajaero, said “the NEC -in-session expressed worry and disappointment at the pace the Federal Government is misinforming the general public over payment of staff emoluments in the Power sector thereby exposing our members to serious security threats .

NEC- session condemns in the delay in completing the biometric reconciliation committee’s assignment which should have been concluded within two weeks of its inauguration. Consequently, the union demands that the committee winds up its activities for the regularisation of casuals by 15th of March , 2013.The NEC -session vehemently condemns the scrapping of PHCN Corporate Headquarters through the back door which has been reflected in intentional removal of funds meant for its operations and payment of salaries. It called for the immediate reinstatement of PHCN Corporate Headquarters’ funding.”

“NEC-session condemns the non-payment of gratuity to retired staff and death benefits to the dependants of deceased members which has led to severe hardship to the families concerned. The union therefore demands immediate release of fund to settle these liabilities. The NEC-session frowned at the stiff-necked attitude shown by the Director General of National Power Training Institute, NAPTIN, against the Director union’s position to stop the deduction of fund 7.5% from staff salaries in NAPTIN effective November, 2012 and immediately refund of fund the backlog. It mandated the National Secretariat to take every necessary step to ensure total compliance with the union’s demand. The NEC-session condemns the continued militarisation of PHCN locations nationwide which has been observed to serve as a source of harassment and intimidation of its customers and calls for immediate withdrawal of military personnel from all PHCN locations.”

“The NEC-session observed and condemns the spate of insecurity and loss of lives and loss property of our members and Nigerian citizens nationwide in the recent series of insurgencies. It calls on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency take necessary steps to secure the lives and property of its citizens. The NEC-session calls on the Federal Government to deliver the dividends of democracy through the provision of basic infrastructure, and quality education to the Nigerian people. NEC-session condemns in strong terms government’s deceit and propaganda to break its ranks by presenting fictitious figures as staff terminal benefits when the consultants (Alexander Forbes ) engaged by the Federal Government is yet to submit its report and the Technical Committee constituted by government is yet to conclude its assignment in this regards.”

“The NEC-session condemns in its entirety the word used by the Federal
Government referring to PHCN staff as staff” sacked workers …” and unanimously agreed that if the phrase is not retracted, the workers shall have no alternative than to stop work as sacked workers are supposed to report for duty. Premise on the above mentioned, if by 15th March , 2013, the issues raised herein are not addressed, the workers will have no option than to take their destiny in their hand.”

Meanwhile, government has appealed organized labour in the Power sector for patience and understanding as all issues surrounding the N384 billion earlier announced for the payment of the entitlements of workers in the sector will be reconciled.

Speaking through the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, the 2nd Triennial National Delegates Conference of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) in Calabar, Cross River State, the government called for restraint to avoid jeopardizing the success recorded so far in the power sector reforms assuring that issues surrounding the said amount would be rested in no due time.

He commended the leaders of the unions for the maturity they had exhibited so far while the negotiations lasted and said social dialogue remained the only way to resolving industrial dispute.

According to him “We appeal to the unions to be patient with government as we have come a long way. I can assure you that all issues surrounding the N384 billion will be resolved as government is committed to the promotion of social dialogue, industrial peace and harmony. In the power sector, labour as a key factor in sustaining regular power supply in Nigeria is not in doubt. No matter how technologically advanced the plans for regular power supply are, the human elements still remain indispensable.

Therefore, in the reform agenda for the power sector, the labour component has been given due diligence and attention. These are pointers to the good efforts which are based on good faith to put an end to all labour issues.”

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