Port Harcourt — The Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, has accused the management of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHED, of planning to retrenched 120 electricity workers in June.
However, the management of PHED has denied such plans, describing the allegations raised by the electricity workers’ union as surprising.
The Acting General Secretary of SSAEAC, South South Zone, Comrade Innocent Lord-Douglas, explained that the union has been reliably informed that 80percent of those pencilled for sack are Rivers indigenes, while the rest are Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa indigenes.
Lord-Douglas also said the union had written to PHED to rescind the decision to sack the 120 staff, especially at a time when things are difficult in the country as result of COVID-19.
“On the 12th of May 2020, we learnt of the plans by PHEDC to sack our members, 120 staff. As we speak, the letters are already being prepared and signed, awaiting to be dispatched to these staff.
“This is the most difficult period for staff members of PHEDC. The management has refused signing a condition of service, but rather resort to operate with a manufactured Sanction Grid Code to intimidate workers, a document our union has rejected in totality.”
The electricity workers union warned that the management of PHED should be held accountable for any breakdown of laws and orders in the state, should the company go ahead to issue the sack letters.
“All security agencies have been notified. DSS, the Police, the Rivers State Government and the various House of Assemblies in these four states, must prevail on the CEO of PHED. You cannot send away 120staff at this time, where do they want them to go?
“Our members have been advised not to sign any letter issued them by PHED, whether sack letter or intimidating letter. They should not also leave their office, peradventure they’re asked to leave. If you’ve put in 5years as a worker, by law, you are entitled to gratuity.”
Also speaking, the Branch President of SSAEAC at PHED, Mr. Paulinus Aniedi, who said he has being issued a termination letter by the company, accused the management of infringing on the rights of electricity workers.
Aniedi alleged that he was issued a sack letter for confronting the management against plans to sack Rivers indigenes over the governor’s action, and also rejecting that half salaries should be paid to workers, after risking their lives to work round the clock.
According to him, “The matter began when the MD/CEO was arrested by Governor Wike during the lockdown. The governor had accosted him on the road and immediately sent him to the isolation centre.
“As the branch president, when I learnt of the incident after he as released from the isolation centre, I went to sympathize with him, and he told me he was going to vent his anger on the staff, especially Rivers indigenes, of which I asked him why? And for that I was given a termination letter on 15th May, which I have rejected.
“The management has sent truckloads of palliatives to the four state governments, whereas the workers who are working round the clock to ensure that there is power supply in these states, do not have any palliatives other than sack threats.”
For his part, Counsel to the electricity workers and Human Rights Lawyer, Barr. Higher King, described the situation as anti-labour practices.
King wondered if the Port Harcourt Disco has stopped collection of electricity bills, despite the COVID-19 lockdown, and vowed to go to court to ensure that the sack, if carried out, is reversed.
“We will go to court, already my client – the union has written to them concerning the impending sack but no response, and in law, no response means admission, it means they’ve admitted that it is true. So if they go ahead and sack, every action taken will be nullified and we are willing to go to court.”
Meanwhile, the management of PHED has maintained that it has no plans to sack 120 of its workers, describing the allegations raised by the electricity workers union as surprising.
PHED Manager, Corporate Communications, Mr. John Onyi, said there was no plans to witch-hunt indigenes of any state, while urging the union to embrace its open door policy to dialogue in the pursuit of the shared objective of promoting staff welfare.