Govt, Labour set up five committees on terminal benefits payment

PHCN workersEluonye Konyegwuaehi

05 October 2013, Sweetcrude, Lagos – THE Federal Government and organized Labour in the Power sector, have set up five committees to ensure full payment of the terminal benefits of about 14,000 casual workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.

Workers who have been verified ought to have been given full employment ahead of take over of PHCN assets by the new investors.

Similarly, the contentious issue of workers 10 per cent equity share of PHCN assets as enshrined in the National Council on Privatisation, NCP Act, would be addressed by the Security end Exchange Commission, SEC, when deciding on the shares.

SweetcrudeReports gathered these are part of the agreement reached by the Federal Government and Labour in the meeting held recently to resolve pending labour issues following the hand over of share certificates and licenses to 15 new owners of PHCN assets.

The five committees, it was gathered would visit the zones like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Kaduna to address the issue of verified casuals and pay them accordingly.

According to a source, while the meeting agreed that full payment of terminal benefits should commence immediately on October 3, and should end not more that a week after commencement, workers Pension Fund Administrators PFAs, would also be credited from October 3.

Confirming the development, General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity, NUEE, Comrade Joseph Ajaero said labour would give government the benefit of doubt, saying Government representatives apologized for the delay and mix-up, saying “the Accountant General told us among others, that they would begin full payment on October 3, and hope to conclude payment a week after. The Accountant General also told us he got an alert of N99 billion credited to the office account by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, on the day of the meeting, which was on October 2. He equally apologized for the delay and others. We are going to give them a benefit of doubt.”

According to Comrade Ajaero, on the issue of workers 10 per cent equity share, government assured that when the Security and Exchange Commission SEC, would be deciding on the shares, labour would get its share since it is statutory.

“On the issue of verified casual workers, five committees were set up to visit the zones like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Kaduna to address the issue and be paid accordingly. On the retirees, the Government said after the payment of existing workers, the retirees would be verified and paid. This according to them is to avoid confusion.”

Ajaero said that other issues would be addressed as things went on, adding that at the end of the day, workers that would work for the new owners would be given new contracts of employment.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government had on October 2, announced that it had resolved the disagreement with workers of PHCN ahead of physical take over of the assets of PHCN by new owners.

The workers had on Monday embarked on a nationwide protest following the Federal Government’s decision to hand over share certificates to the core investors in the PHCN successor companies without a complete resolution of issues affecting to their severance benefits.

A statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Dr. Goodnews Igali, said the payment implementation committee had resolved all contending issues, blaming the hiccups experienced in the course of the payment on the large number of people involved.

He insisted that the government had enough funds to complete the process, but was being careful to ensure that money was not paid into the wrong accounts.

Igali commended the PHCN labour unions for their show of patriotism, claiming that of the 47,000 employees, 45,366 persons had so far been captured, and promised that the remaining persons would be captured after the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had finalised its processes.

The Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, said at the end of the negotiation that his office was always ready to pay all outstanding payments after due processes had been complied with.

He also reiterated the resolve of the government to honour all obligations to the PHCN workers.

General Secretary of NUEE, Comrade Ajaero, who spoke on behalf of organized labour, blamed the government for sending wrong signals as to what led to the stoppage of the payment midway.

He said on the part of labour, the hope was that in two weeks, the government should complete the process as they were not expecting it to be indefinite.

Comrade Ajaero thereafter, asked workers nationwide to suspend their planned shut-down and ongoing protest to watch if the government would be committed to ensuring prompt payment of the entitlements to its members.

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