Nationwide blackout looms as PHCN workers begin strike October 2

PHCN30 September 2013, Lagos – The already deplorable power situation in the country may worsen as employees of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, have threatened to stop the supply of electricity across the country by October 2 if the federal government goes ahead to handover the assets of the company to private investors today without the conclusion of payment of workers entitlements.

The industrial action follows the expiration of the ultimatum issued by the workers to government to resolve all labour issues ahead of the privatisation of PHCN.

In preparation for the industrial action, the workers will today hold a nationwide protest to alert Nigerians of impending shutdown of the power sector on Wednesday.

Speaking under the umbrella of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the union directed its members to withdraw their services from all PHCN installations immediately after the celebration of the nation’s 53 Independence anniversary.

The union, in a statement issued by its secretary, Joe Ajaero, said the industrial action became necessary in view of government refusal to resolve the outstanding labour issues with the workers.

The union said it was particularly disturbed by the statement credited to the Chairman of National Council on Privatisation (NCP), Vice-President Namadi Sambo that government had settled all the labour issues which had impeded the smooth take off of the privatisation programme and the handover to private investors.

The union insisted that the vice-president was either being misled or deliberately keen on emasculating the PHCN workers with a view to further impoverishing them.
It challenged the Office of the Vice-President “to mention any person from his constituency – Kaduna State where he served as governor, who has been paid his entitlement, pension and gratuity.”

The union further alleged governments deployment of military personnel to all PHCN facilities stating that the aim was to ostensibly to allow a forceful takeover of the installations without conclusively settling the labour issues.

It noted that the policy of deploying soldiers to PHCN installations to intimidate workers was “definitely misguided and misdirected as they are directed to creating more tension to already tensed polity.”

The statement read: “For clarity, please note that these issues are outstanding: payments of terminal benefits: payment of the terminal benefits is yet to rise up to 50 per cent for the eligible workers. Non-payment of retirement savings fund to Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs): Up till this moment no efforts has been made to commence payment. The PFAs can attest to this fact. Non-remittance of 2 per cent of the union deductions as agreed: No word has been heard from the

BPE/government on remittance of this two person neither has the deductions already made from the paid workers remitted to the unions.”

“Non-payment of retirees who disengaged since 2011: It is absurd and sordid for government not to think of settling these people who laboured over the years in service of this country and get retired meritoriously, while the privatisation exercise was on.

Non-regularisation of some of the casuals already identified: With the biometrics done and concluded, it becomes worrisome on the continued delay in regularising the casuals who had been identified based on agreements already entered into. 10 per cent equity shareholding by the workers: In line with the relevant laws, the workers are entitled to 10 per cent Equity Share of the total sale of PHCN. But it appears the government is bent on short changing the workers.”

“The shortfall of terminal benefits from June 2012 till date has not been considered for payment.

“These contending issues cannot be jettisoned by the workers to allow any force to takeover! It behooves us therefore to advise the vice-president and those misguiding him not to toy with the socio-economic lives of PHCN workers, their families and other Nigerians who depend on them for their livelihood. We are set to take our destiny in our hands.

“Because of Independence Day ceremonies, we would be patient to allow for full celebrations.

“However, we hereby urge Nigerians to bear with us if after October 2, the government goes ahead with her illicit handover to the investors and forceful takeover; the implication would be that the workers have technically been asked to withdraw their services and we may not be able to guarantee smooth operations.

Consequently, if after October 2, the Office of the Vice-President fails to correct this misleading information, we shall not guarantee supply of electricity in the country. This is not a threat as our earlier ultimatum has expired.”

– This Day

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