There are signs of a new strike looming two weeks after the nationwide strike by electricity workers that caused the country’s blackout was suspended. The government is allegedly unwilling to resolve the issue of unpaid entitlements to former employees of the disbanded Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
This occurred at the same time as Vanguard learned that various government organizations, including the anti-graft committees, are allegedly harassing sector labor leaders on the agreements signed with the government during the privatization of the sector.
One of the factors that prompted the sector workers to take industrial action two weeks ago under the auspices of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEC, and the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, was the issue of unpaid benefits.
Vanguard learned that the problem of unpaid benefits to some of the former PHCN employees has turned into a roadblock to addressing the issues when the committee established to handle them meets today.
Sources claim that government organizations, such as the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), which oversees the Federal Government’s privatization program, are delaying the payment of benefits and other unpaid entitlements.
Although other topics are moving along well, it was learned that the committee’s final meeting today would be marred by the unpaid benefits issue.
According to a source, government organizations, including the BPE, are reluctant to assume responsibility for the payment of entitlements. They are passing money around, which makes it difficult to solve the problems.
“The payment issue will delay the resolution of the difficulties, even though other matters are moving along smoothly.” Because the two weeks given to settle the issue expire tomorrow, the employees are already quite agitated (today).
‘’There is tension in the sector because the workers are aware of the development and are pushing for a resumption of the suspended strike. So, tomorrow’s meeting is very crucial to either the resolution of the matter or, there will be fresh industrial unrest.”
Vanguard learned that union leaders in the sector have reportedly been harassed by government organizations, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), since the most recent strike two weeks ago over the agreements reached with the Federal Government during the privatization exercise in 2013.
According to a source who spoke to Vanguard, the EFCC and other agencies have written many letters to the union leaders requesting access to all the agreements made with the government when the former PHCN was privatized.
“The harassment is becoming intolerable,” one of the labor leaders told Vanguard, “since the EFCC and other government agencies know where to get the agreements being requested, especially at the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
We are not easily intimidated. No amount of intimidation, harassment, or other tactics can prevent us from exercising our right to collective bargaining. We are not deterred.
Electricity workers in Lagos and Ogun zonal council, however, declared yesterday that they were prepared for the strike to resume whenever the union received an instruction.
Leaders of the zone cautioned that “any danger to the leadership of the union is a threat to employees in the sector and Nigerian workers in general” at a briefing in Lagos. We are prepared.
The employees said in a joint statement read by Temple Iworima and Akeem Ladoja, respectively, Assistant General Secretaries for Lagos and Ogun and Vice President (Lagos Ogun) : “It is an irrefutable fact that the privatization of the power sector has not improved the lives of the common Nigerians.
“The entire operation, which could be characterized as a sham, hasn’t improved the sector in any appreciable way. Instead, it has caused a significant setback for the country.
“Infrastructure development by new business owners in the power sector has almost completely stopped, while the socioeconomic standing of the ordinary worker in the sector has continued to fall despite the current depressing economic climate.
“As there are no obvious attempts by the generation firms (GenCos) and distribution businesses (DisCos) to upgrade and expand their capacities/networks, “the same equipment inherited pre-privatization have remained what powers the sector.”