23 April 2014, Lagos – Investors in the power sector may be in for an industrial crisis as labour unions in the industry have threatened to fight moves by the firms to sack thousands of their workers.
The unions specifically told our correspondent that the investors were only trying to compound their woes if they dared sack any worker after terminating the appointments of about 47,000 employees when the successor companies to the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria were handed over to them last November.
Since the privatisation of the power sector, the investors who bought over the successor companies have been complaining of numerous challenges confronting them. Notable among these constraints are the issues of inadequate gas supply, poor manpower base and obsolete equipment.
But speaking with our correspondent in separate interviews, senior officials of the Nigerian Union of Electricity Employees and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies stated that they were ready for a showdown with the firms over the planned mass sacking of the remaining workers.
The Secretary General, NUEE, Mr. Joe Ajaero, stated that if the power firms were looking for excuses of non-performance since they took over, they should not put it on the workers.
He said the union was ready and capable of engaging the firms and would do all in its power to resist the sacking of the workers.
Ajaero said, “They are talking of mass sacking; they did that arrangement then (when they took over) and it worked, but it is clear now that they still can’t cope with the system. Now, if they are prepared to have labour problem joined the ones that they are having, then they should know that they are going to have it.
“I repeat, if they are looking for excuses to say it is because of labour issues and crisis that have made them unable to perform, we will not sit down and watch them. We will add it to their problems. In fact, it has got to that level and nobody will hold us responsible.
“My final word is that we are going to engage these guys and you know our pedigree because it is glaring that they don’t mean well for this country by trying to embark on mass sacking of workers again.”
He also said, “They sacked almost 40 per cent of the workers when they took over. Now, they are looking at making profit when they are not working, and they feel that the only way to make profit is to reduce the manpower.
“And if you can remember, when they sacked that percentage of workers before, they were forced to recall some people. If they feel they are capable, they should perform and not try to use the workforce as an excuse.”
When contacted, a senior official of SSAEAC stated that the body would not allow the power firms to “rubbish electricity workers.”
The official, who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said, “We have heard of their plan, but I will like to tell you that it cannot work.
“If they cannot perform, they should make it clear to Nigerians instead of trying to push their inability on the workers. We are watching and we will resist them.”
Findings had shown that thousands of workers in the electricity generation and distribution companies would lose their jobs as the six-month contractual employment given to them by the new investors expires on April 30.
The Federal Government had ordered the retrenchment of no fewer than 20,000 PHCN workers ahead of the takeover of the 18 successor companies last year. This was said to be in response to the demands of the new investors, who wanted the 50,000 plus PHCN workforce reduced before the takeover.
Though 47,913 PHCN workers were disengaged following the privatisation of the power firms, the new investors were contractually required to retain some workers in order to prevent the system from collapsing.
– The Punch