Fear grips electricity workers as probation ends in April

PHCN workers14 January 2014, Lagos – Electricity workers are under intense pressure to deliver as the six-month probation given them by the 14 power firms expires soon.

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), last November, sacked about 70 per cent of the 48,000 workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), putting the remaining 30 per cent on probation for six months starting from November 2013 to April, this year.

The Nation gathered that the generation companies (GENCOs) and distribution company (DISCOs) gave a ‘’tough’’ schedule regime for the workers.

While some are doing the job of two or more people, others do the work of four to fill the vacuum created by the retrenchment.

In some of the business units visited in Lagos, workers were making frantic moves to meet set targets.

A worker of the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, said meeting the targets set by the firms has been difficult. He said the shortage of manpower has put workers under serious pressure.

He said: ‘’The overhauling of the PHCN and the retrenchment of workers last year have caused anxiety in the industry. Those retained by the power firms, live in fear. The reason is because the firms have promised to review the workforce soon. There has been intense lobbying by the staff to regularise their appointments. Besides, a worker does the work of three or four people. I was assigned to distribute bills in four communities, a job hitherto assigned to two or more workers.”

Also, a female worker at the Ojodu Business Unit, said the workers were living in fear as the probation period lapses soon. She said many workers are uncertain about their future since they may be thrown out of job soon, adding that it is certain that more workers would go, going by the pronouncement of some operators.

She said staff were working harder to win the confidence of their employers, arguing that the means may not justify the end. According to her, many of the workers do not know the parameters which the companies would use to assess their performance, urging the companies to be fair.

The President, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mansur Musa, said the workers had been subjected to unnecessary pressures since the companies took over the assets of PHCN last year.

Musa said the workers were made to undertake more responsibilities, adding that they are in dilemma as the expiration of the probation period draws nearer.

He said: “We are fighting our battles from two fronts. First, we are working to ensure the operators do not sack more people after the probation period. Secondly, we want to ensure that those disengaged from services are recalled. We do not want the sector to collapse, hence the decision to appeal to the government to handle the workers’ issues with caution. To secure quality hands is not easy. That is why the government needs to reconsider its decision on some labour issues.”

He said the business units and other locations managed by the power distribution companies could not boast of enough funds, stressing that the issue has affected their operations.

‘’ We have been trying to tell the government that the money level in the business units and other locations have been depleted. This has worsened the workers’ plight because the power distribution companies were not ready to employ more hands. What we see is mounting pressure in the industry. If the trend continues, there would be industrial accidents. The workers are going to burn out, as a result of stress. When this happens, low productivity would set in and the DISCOs and GENCOs would not be able to achieve their goal of improving power supply.”

The Spokesman, Ministry of Power, Timothy Oyedeji, said the workers should understand that the government is trying to fix the sector. The government sold the PHCN to investors, provided blueprint for them to operate and cannot interfere in their decision making, he said.


– The Nation

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