Again, power supply under threat as electricity workers set for strike
By Anthony Okafor
Unless some intervention comes, power supply to the national grid risks another cut in two weeks, as workers in the sector, under the auspices of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have issued a fresh 14-day ultimatum to resume their last suspended strike.
The strike had on November 10, 2019 threw the entire country into darkness for one day, as aggrieved workers shutdown power generating systems to press home their demands, chief among which was the payment of outstanding entitlements to former staff of defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The strike was suspended on November 11, 2019 following the intervention of the National Assembly, and Ministry of Labour and Employment, leading to the signing of an agreement by key stakeholders- including NUEE, Ministry of Power and management of Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), a Federal Government’s agency vested with the powers to midwife privatisation of public assets in the country.
Joe Ajaero, general secretary of NUEE, along with the union’s president, Martins Uzoegwu, who spoke to journalists in Lagos, on Wednesday, are infuriated that seven weeks after the strike was suspended to allow for further negotiation, none of the issues raised by the union, or agreed to by the stakeholders has been implemented by the power ministry and BPE.
Ajaero alleged that rather than resolving the issue of over 2,000 workers who never received their severance package following the privatisation of PHCN, and 16 months underpayment of those who received theirs, as well as payment of 7.5 percent pension component, which the management of BPE has fully acknowledged, the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Agba, has resorted to harassment of the union, as demonstrated during a meeting in Abuja last week.
The union alleged that the minister after shouted down labour leaders and walked out during a meeting on Monday, January 20, 2019, convened to resolve the outstanding issues captured in the agreement signed on November 11, 2019; an action the union described as “un-ministerial” just as it insisted on apologies from the minister.
On the issue of 16-months underpayment of severance benefits as well as the 7.5% Pension component, DG-BPE acknowledged that this was pending and promised that modalities would be worked out on the payment.
Among other demands of the union which they presented to the government before the last strike in 2019, which are still outstanding are Condition of Service (COS) from the GenCos and DisCos, resolution of unionisation issues with Gencos and the non-remittance of the deducted check-off dues, non-remittance of Contributory Pensions of Discos’ workers especially for Kaduna, Kano and Jos and non-victimisation of all staff who participated in the last industrial action.
“If at the end of 14 working days these issues are not addressed, the union will resume its suspended industrial action of December 11, 2019.
The whole country must hold the minister of state for power, Goddy Agba, responsible for the outcome of such action. The union would have commenced a wild cat industrial action on the earlier but for the respect we have for the office of the speaker House of Representatives and minister of Labour and Employment and our commitment to industrial peace and harmony.
“We wish to advice that officers whose interest run counter with the policies of the Federal Government must no longer be allowed to undermine Mr. President’s policy directives.
The union wishes to align itself with the position of El Rufai Committee and the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) resolutions that the power sector has collapsed. Hence there is need for it to be retrieved from the hands of the present operators,” the union said.