22 November 2011, Sweetcrude, LAGOS — Organised labour in Nigeria’s electricity industry has faulted the stance of Power Minister, Prof Barth Nnaji, that employees of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) must undergo biometric verification before a 50 per cent pay agreement reached with government will be implemented.
Under the umbrella of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), organised labour said a biometric verification exercise for staff was done a year ago and caused the nation N300 million, arguing that the agreement reached with government on the biometric verification was for over 10,000 casual workers in PHCN.
A statement by the union’s General Secretary, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said: “We are astonished at the unfolding events in the power sector (PHCN), especially at realising that moves are on to carry out all staff biometric verification exercise in PHCN as a pre-condition to the payment of 50 per cent salary increase.
“While we do not necessarily have any serious issue against any genuine attempt to sanitise or moderate the system, we frown at moves geared towards implementing policies that are not products of collective bargaining.
“The on-going negotiation/conciliation of the government and the Labour unions in the power sector on the way forward in the reform agenda did not at anytime recommend general biometrics for all staff rather the agreement which we had in the negotiation was for the casual workers’ biometric exercise to ascertain their exact number, validity, and eligibility for employment.
“This agreement was signed by government representatives, including the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour. Recall that during Monetisation Arrears implementation, the issue of All Staff Biometric Exercise Verification came up at the table for discussions.”
“The Unions did not object to it and it was therefore adopted. The exercise which we consider valid was carried out by Government appointed Consultants that charged about N300 million. This exercise took place in the last one year.
“It appears some people are again warming and enmeshed in some inordinate desires to misappropriate such whopping sum for an unpopular programme that was concluded about a year ago.
“The agreement of the’ ongoing negotiation should be respected and obeyed by all the parties; ‘and’ if there are areas of inclusion. it should be brought to the table for all the parties’ to discuss and adopt. In the circumstance therefore, we posit that the Statements credited to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Power, is misleading; and unfortunate.”