PHCN workers deny FG’s claims on payment of entitlements

PHCN22 August 2013, Lagos – The unions in the power sector Wednesday denied media reports credited to the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, that about 20,000 workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, been fully paid their severance benefits ahead of the takeover of PHCN assets by private investors.

Speaking under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, the union said there was no iota of truth in the statement, stating that it was only meant to deceive investors that workers’ entitlements had already been paid.

A statement by NUEE’s President, Mansir Musa, said the payment made so far only covered few workers, insisting that no PHCN worker had been fully paid.

He, however, warned that the union would resist any illegal takeover of PHCN until the severance benefits were fully paid to all the workers.

The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to publication in some national newspapers credited to an agent of government – Mr. Chigbo Anichebe of BPE on the payment of severance package to PHCN workers and hereby react as follows. There is no iota of truth in the statement as it was only meant to deceive the investors that workers’ entitlements have already been paid. The payment made so far only cover few workers as against the claim that over 20,000 workers have been paid out of purported 40,000 workforce.

“The ‘so-called payment’ to the few workers involved is just a fraction of their total entitlement. The balance runs into billions of naira.  The statement is misleading and capable of creating negative impression before the public and ‘investors’ that government has paid fully, all the entitlements. We hope they will not be so deceived.

“No staff of PHCN has been fully paid till now. We wish to reiterate that we shall resist any illegal takeover of PHCN until the severance benefits are fully paid to all PHCN workers. Government should, therefore, effect full payment without further delay and guard against actions capable of generating tension and industrial unrest.   All members are therefore enjoined to remain calm and focus even beyond ensuring that no staff is short-changed of their severance entitlements.”

Speaking also, the President of Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEC, Mr. Bede Opara, said some components of what the unions and government agreed on at the end of the negotiations in December 2012 were not included in the payment.

Opara, in a telephone chat, confirmed that payment of workers entitlement had already commenced, however, stated that those that had so far been paid were not up to the number the BPE was claiming.

According to him, government is paying according to the money that was available to it. “They have not refused to pay the complete money. It is only when they refused to pay that we will react,” he said.

– Linda Eroke, This Day

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