Electricity Unions Cannot Use Power Play To Punish The Country, Says Ngige


 

The Minister Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has condemned the industrial action embarked upon by electricity workers, revealing that it is as a result of a power struggle between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC).

Dr Ngige who was on Channels Television Lunchtime Politics, said that an investigation by the Labour Ministry showed the level of a power struggle between the unions, and he told them not to do anything unfair that will affect the country.

He added that the effect of the strike action has caused the country billions of Naira and loss of lives.

“My initial investigation as the Minister of Labour is that there is a power-play between NUEE and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity Workers who are domiciled there.

“There is a power struggle on who is senior and who is more potent in terms of effecting unionism and they have carried this on and inflicted the whole country with a power outage that has caused us billions of naira and loss of lives; it is unfair and I have told them not to do that.”

READ ALSO: Exercise Higher Tolerance Before Industrial Actions, Gbajabiamila Tells Electricity Workers

The Labour Minister stated that his ministry will carry out further investigation on the matter and will invoke the relevant labour laws on liable unions.

“The unions are not ‘Omni-Sacrosanct’ that we can’t do anything to them, we will look at the issue and if they are liable, I will invoke the relevant sections of the labour act on that.

“The preliminary investigation shows that there is a power play, and they cannot use power play to punish the entire nation and make us lose man-hours, billions of naira and lose lives in hospitals that their generators are not working.”

On the lingering issues between the unions, the Ministry of Power, Distribution Companies (DisCos) and Generating companies (GenCos), Dr Ngige faulted the processes adopted by electricity workers to embark on the nationwide strike, stressing that respect for the rule of law must be adhered to.

“The rule of law is not for the government alone, it is for the citizens too. There are set laws for people to apply in industrial relations and all are encapsulated in the trade dispute act.

“Before somebody on essential service, of which electricity workers are one, can proceed on industrial action; you must notify your direct employers first and the onus is on them to convene a meeting, they then approach the labour ministry, the labour minister is there, that’s my work and they give the ultimatum and there are special forms called the ‘Trade Dispute forms’ which they fill and lodge in the Ministry; all that was not done.

“They just had issues with their direct employers which are the Ministry of Power, the DisCos which is mostly privatized with the government having just 40 percent while the investors have 60 percent,” he added.

Dr Ngige also revealed that the problems are more with the DisCos and GenCos, and where it concerns the Federal Government is in the aspect of the severance package.

He stated that since the unbundling of the power sector, 400 persons out of the remaining 600 outstanding cases have been captured.

“Some of the problems are in the DisCos, the GenCos and some with the government. The Government side of the problem is where they said that some of the people that were severed when those parastatals were privatized have not been paid off.

“The statistics are there and it is only about 600 persons that their cases are outstanding and out of those, 400 have been captured and sent to the Accountant-General of the Federation because what had happened is that all the monies gathered from the sales of privatization were expended in terms of the severance benefits and other allowances that were due to the workers that had to leave those DisCos and GenCos, so 98 percent of the money went in there.

“Shortfall in salaries is a continuous thing and is being addressed and it’s not even a government thing, it is with the DisCos,” he stressed.

The strike action by electricity workers was called off in the early hours of Thursday after the union had earlier issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Minister of Power for a dialogue to resolve the lingering industrial crisis in the sector.

The workers held a protest on Wednesday, over the non-payment of a severance package for members who were affected by the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria PHCN into eleven electricity distribution companies (DisCos), six generating companies (GenCos), and a transmission company (TCN).

The workers in blocked main entrance gate and locked out some staff to the Ministry of Power.

Exercise Higher Tolerance Before Industrial Actions, Gbajabiamila Tells Electricity Workers

 

In a bid to find lasting solution to the lingering electricity situation in the country leadership of the House Representatives on Thursday met with parties concerned in the matter.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, during the meeting appealed to the union to “exercise higher tolerance” before thinking of embarking on strike as their action could affect lives negatively.

Gbajabiamila added that the electricity workers should be included as a witness to its decision to shelve its industrial action so that it would ensure that all issues agreed on are implemented.

The Minister of Labour Chris Ngige; the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy Agba; officials of BPE and leadership of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) were also at the meeting.

READ ALSO: Reps Summon Labour, Power Ministers Over Planned Electricity Workers’ Strike

Gbajabiamila further pleaded with the leadership of the electricity workers to henceforth communicate to the House whenever there are issues that would lead them to embark on strike.

“From all indications, this matter will be resolved permanently. This matter was discussed on the floor of the House yesterday (Wednesday), and we decided that it will be addressed by the leadership, not by any committee, not because the committee doesn’t have competence, but because of the seriousness.

“This issue has unintended consequences on Nigerians. Within the hours you were on strike, a lot of things may have happened. But they may not be reported.

“Let me plead with the electricity workers that your power of tolerance should be higher than any of us because your work and what you do or fail to do can affect lives. You should be able to sacrifice more.

“We want to make that agreement a tripartite agreement and include the House of Representatives as part of it. We want to be part of the agreement as witnesses so that you can hold us accountable. That way, we’ll ensure that the government meets its part,” the Speaker said.

The Speaker also said the House would look at the possibility of amending the Labour Law so that the ministry of labour could be given powers to sanction erring employers of labour.

Earlier, the Minister of Labour told the House leadership that he was disturbed by the strike, saying the union did not duly notify his ministry about its planned action.

“I want to register my great displeasure at what has happened. This is because electricity is an essential service after the hospital. In fact, if you shut down electricity, you will end up killing people.

“It was unfortunate that they had to go on strike without involving us much on the issue. I didn’t find it funny that the whole economy was thrown into a gargantuan loss,” he said.

On his part, the Minister of State for Power, Agba said an agreement was reached with the electricity workers, which led to the suspension of the strike.

“We’ve sat and thrashed out the issues from 8.pm to about 2.am. We signed the papers and they suspended the strike. I assure you that this matter has been resolved and communique has been signed.”

Also speaking, the general secretary of the union, Comrade Joe Ajaero, noted that they informed the ministry of labour about the 21-day ultimatum and that no action was taken, saying they were left with no option than to embark on the strike.

“Ministry of labour has teeth, but it can’t bite. We want a situation where the labour law will be amended so that the ministry will have teeth to bite. The ministry will write employers of labour, but if they fail to obey, they can’t be sanctioned.”

Ajaero expressed doubts on government’s readiness to respect the agreement, but the Speaker assured that the House would do everything within its powers to see to the implementation of the agreement within the agreed stipulated time frame.

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Electricity Workers Suspend Nationwide Strike

 

The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has suspended its nationwide strike.

General Secretary of the Union, Joe Ajaero, said the action was called off in the early hours of Thursday following a tripartite meeting between the leaders of the union, BPE and the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo.

The union had earlier commenced the industrial action on Wednesday after a 21-day ultimatum issued to the Minister of Power Saleh Mamman.

READ ALSO: Reps Summon Labour, Power Ministers Over Planned Electricity Workers’ Strike

Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDP) in a tweet on Thursday said following the suspension of the strike by NUEE, they are back to business. They also thanked their customers for their patience while the strike lasted.

“Dear customer, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has suspended its strike. Our offices & payment channels are open for business. Thank you for your patience & understanding,” the tweet read.

 

Part of the demands of the electricity workers is the call for the settlement of unresolved workers claims after the privatization of the power sector by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).

Other unresolved issues are illegal transfer of union properties to power investors and the alleged refusal by some distribution companies (discos) to remit deducted contributory pension of their members of staff to pension managers.

Staff Casualised Workers Or Face Industrial Action, NUEE Warns KEDCO

NUEE, KEDCO, Workers, StaffThe National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has issued a 7-day ultimatum to the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company (KEDCO) to confirm the over 2,000 staff under its employment or face industrial disharmony.

Addressing reporters in Kaduna State, the Northwest Zonal Assistant Secretary of the union, Mr Moses Amedu, decried what he called the ‘unfavourable policy and casualisation’ of workers by the company.

He accused the management of Kaduna Electric of deliberately refusing to confirm the workers over 16 months after they were employed, and also laying off some staff without any reason.

Mr Amedu vowed that the union would paralyse activities at the company if the management fails to confirm the workers and recall the sacked ones.

“Kaduna Electric under its watch did not train any of their staff since their appointment in September 2015 till date, and expects them to perform magic.

“Staff are indiscriminately transferred, irrespective of their location or status with no transfer benefit.

“The management is evasive to all labour relationship and do not carry them along in their activities.

“We are hereby giving a one-week ultimatum today, February 2, 2017 to attend to our demands or risk industrial disharmony,” he said.

KEDCO Reacts To Allegations

However, the management of KEDCO reaffirmed the company’s unalloyed respect for both national and international labour laws and conventions.

Reacting to the allegations, the company’s Head of Corporate Communications, Mr Abdulazeez Abdullahi, said that more than 90% of the workers have been confirmed while a negligible percentage that failed to measure up to the basic requirement of the company were laid off.

He explained further that some staff were put on a six months’ probation to give them a chance to improve on their performance.

Mr Abdullahi restated that the company was committed to ensuring harmonious working relations with its staff.

He noted that the management had submitted a draft ‘condition of service’ to the union for its input over a month ago, stressing that the union was yet to revert to the company.

Over 90% Staff Confirmed

“The management followed a rigorous evaluation procedure in assessing its staff, most of whom were confirmed this week.

“More than 90% of the workers have been confirmed while a negligible percentage that failed to measure up to the basic requirement of the company were laid off.

“Also, some staff were put on a six months’ probation to give them a chance to improve their performance.

“And with the confirmation exercise over, the company is poised growth as it will soon unveil a comprehensive training plan to enhance staff skills and productivity.

“The confirmation exercise was delayed because of the tedious nature of the exercise that included a verification of the academic qualifications of its about 3,000 workforce.

“The management has in the spirit of wider consultation, submitted a draft ‘condition of service’ to the electricity workers’ union for its input over a month ago and the union is yet to revert to the company.

“The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had expressed reservation on the outcome of the talent review recently conducted by Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company,” Abdullahi said.

Court Defers Ruling On Suit Filed Against PHCN

Court, PHCNThe National Industrial Court sitting in Akure has ‎adjourned the case filed by the disengaged staff of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) against the company.

The ruling on the matter was postponed till October 18, 2016, after the court heard from counsels of both parties on Wednesday in Ondo State, southwest Nigeria.

The electricity employees were led by the President of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Ondo ‎State chapter, Clement Daudu.

The staff, numbering 75 were in court to challenge their alleged disengagement since 2013 without following due process and non-payment of their severance packages.

Joined in the suit as second, third and fourth defendants were the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and the National Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO).

Electricity Workers Protest Over Unpaid Severance Packages

Electricity-NUEESome electricity workers under the aegis of NUEE have staged a protest over the non-payment of severance packages of their colleagues by the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

The members of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) on Monday barricaded the gate of the headquarters of the electricity company in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

According to the Senior Assistant General Secretary of NUEE, Cyprian Ndubuisi, at least 3,000 workers of the then Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), who were disengaged before privatisation, have not been paid their severance packages.

The union also barred workers from entering into their offices while they called on the Federal Government to resolve all lingering labour issues concerning their welfare.

Severed PHCN Workers Protest Liquidation

PHCNSevered workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), are protesting ongoing plans to liquidate the company’s assets amidst pending labour issues including outstanding severance benefits of nearly 5,000 workers.

The protest was led by the Chairman of the FCT Council of Electricity Employees, Mr Wisdom Nwachukwu on Monday.

The workers demanded that Federal Government put the liquidation on hold and investigate the rushed process by the Bureau of Public Enterprises and the engagement of a law firm, J.K Gadzama as liquidator, contrary to the provisions of the law on assets liquidation.

They said that 10% equity and 7.5% RSA owed over 50,000 workers by the Federal Government, 16 months outstanding benefits and other outstanding issues in the sub-sector should be concluded before the winding down of the corporate headquarters of the PHCN, as agreed between the Power Sector Labour Union and the Federal Government in 2012.

The Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) on Thursday, urged the Federal Government to suspend the planned liquidation of the unbundled PHCN.

The General Secretary of the Union, Mr Joe Ajearo, made the call during a protest by the workers in Abuja.

Mr Ajaero said that the planned liquidation must not take place without settling outstanding major labour issues in the sector.

Electricity Workers Urge Buhari To Probe PHCN Privatisation

electricityAggrieved disengaged workers of the Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company have called on President Muhammadu Buhari led government to  review  the privatisation of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) by the former administration.

The workers, under the umbrella of National Union of Electricity Employees, (NUEE), alleged that the privatisation project was fraught with irregularities and urged the federal government to revisit the exercise.

Addressing the aggrieved workers of the company on Saturday in Kaduna, Northwest Nigeria, Vice President of  the Union, Sikamta Ali criticised the management of Kaduna electricity of stopping workers from participating in union activities and introducing casualisation policy as against the Nigerian Labour laws.

The workers also argued that if after many months, privatisation of electricity in the country had failed to bring positive impact to electricity consumers, then there was need for President Buhari to revisit the programme.

They called on the management of Kaduna Electric to recall over one thousand staff  that were disengaged last month, and to also allow workers participate in union activities.

Spokesman for Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company, Abdulaziz Abdullahi said the casual workers were inherited from the former PHCN, with some of them are now fully employed in its workforce.

May Day: Osun, Plateau Workers Seek Payment of Salaries

As workers across the world mark the May Day, it was a different story for workers in Osun and Plateau State, as the usual funfair did not hold due to nonpayment of workers’ salary and emoluments for over five months.

Speaking to Journalists in Osogbo, Osun State capital, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Osun State Chapter, Jacob Adekomi, ascribed the ‎”no celebration” to non payment of salaries to the workforce.

Adekomi said that as long as the workers’ salaries and other emoluments remain unpaid for five months‎, there is no basis for any ceremonial outing.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC), Osun State Chapter, gathered some of its members for what it termed as a prayer session in spite of the ”no celebration”.

The union said that although they were also in support of the ‘no pay no celebration’, what is required is prayer to help change the trend of things in the nation, particularly as the nation prepares for a transition.

Plateau State

Instead of the usual May Day celebrations, workers in Plateau state gathered at the Labour House in Jos in a solemn mood as salary and emoluments, including outstanding arrears of minimum wage, non release of promotions to workers, non payment of gratuity and pension to retirees, among other issues are still pending.

The NLC Chairman in the state, Jibrin Bancir, in a press briefing, observed that the singular act of bad governance and inhuman treatment of workers over the years by the outgoing regime have put the workers under trauma.

As the workers were reflecting on the situation at hand, another faction that emanated from the national body gathered at the state office of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), led by Anthony Sule John, to address workers and the issue at the national level of the union.

The TUC, with about 12 affiliates comprising mostly senior association members, gathered at their office to also mark the May Day celebrations, with emphases on the plight of Plateau workers.

PHCN Handover: Workers Gear Up For Industrial Action

The Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, workers are gearing up for a nationwide strike to prevent the planned Federal Government handover on the grounds that their terminal entitlements have not been fully paid.

The National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, has directed its members to withdraw their services from all installations in the event of provocation by armed military personnel.

A statement signed by the Secretary-General of the union, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said the plan of the Federal Government to hand over the power assets negated the agreement it reached with the union to resolve all outstanding labour issues.

Mr Ajaero insisted that the gratuity payment was only 68% completed and that no member of the union has had their pension contributions transferred into their retirement savings accounts.

He said, “those that retired from service since 2011 have not received their benefits totaling about 19billion Naira.  The differences of the shortfall of the terminal benefits from June 30, 2012 till date have not been considered for payment.

The statement further said “the question of 10% equity shareholding (in the companies) by the workers as statutorily provided has not been given attention”.

“While we appreciate and sympathise with the core investors, we ask for their understanding and that of the Nigerian public in our pursuit to ensure a seamless transition. We are resolute on receiving every kobo owed us, as we are sure such liabilities will not be borne by the new investors.”

It will be recalled that the Federal Government had earlier declared that it would go ahead with the physical hand over of the company’s assets to the new owners as scheduled on November the 1st, as announced by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry Of Power, Mr Godknows Igali, after a meeting with Vice President Namadi Sambo, on the power privatisation process.

FG agrees to pay electricity workers accrued pension

The prolonged labour crises between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Federal Government which began since 2010 has finally been resolved as both parties agreed that total accrued pension as at June 30, 2007 shall be paid.

PHCN employees protest over pension

The payment was agreed to be in accordance with the 2010 conditions of service of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The resolution meeting which took place at the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government agreed that 25 per cent of the accrued pension will be paid to existing PHCN staff while 75 per cent will be paid into the retirement savings accounts.

Other agreements reached were that severance allowance which shall be paid at 20 per cent of total accrued benefits among others.

Present at the meeting were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Minister of Labour; Chief Emeka Wogu, Minister of State for Power; Hajiya Zainab Kuchi, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC); Peter Esele, Secretary General of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) among others.

The Agreement was signed on behalf of the Federal Government by Senator Anyim, while Mr Esele and Ajearo signed on behalf of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

Nnaji’s resignation: It’s hard to be a good man in Nigeria – Sam Omatseye

The Chairman of the editorial board of the Nation newspapers, Sam Omatseye Thursday said with the ‘sack’ of the former Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji it is difficult to be a good man in Nigeria.

Mr Omatseye, who was speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, said President Goodluck Jonathan as well as the Security agencies that cleared Mr Nnaji before his appointment as a minister already knew that he (Nnaji) owns a company that is interested in the power sector.