Posted by Clara Nwachukwu, Babatunde Oke and Atser Godwin on
Electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees, have said they will embark on strike if.....
Electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees, have said they will embark on strike if the Bureau of Public Enterprises goes ahead with the winding up of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria by month end.
However, despite the threat, the BPE has insisted that the unbundling will take place on Saturday as scheduled.
A strike by the workers of the PHCN could paralyse economic activities nationwide.
The workers said they were left with no choice, but to down tools since both the PHCN and BPE had refused to take them into confidence in the privatisation of the company.
The representatives of the union in Lagos and Ogun states, who spoke with our correspondents on Wednesday in Lagos, wanted the winding up to be put on hold until all labour-related issues had been resolved.
The union said, “For sometime now, the issue of June 30, 2006 for cessation of PHCN has been re-occurring. For the avoidance of doubt, the union wishes to inform all our members that no agreement has been reached with the government on the cessation of PHCN and other matters arising.
“Some of these issues include staff entitlements and severance package for workers that would be laid off at the end of the exercise.”
The Zonal Organising Secretary of the union, Mr. Isaac Babatunde, disclosed that the workers were particularly worried about an outstanding debt of N107billion, allegedly owed by PHCN to the corporation’s Super Annuation Fund, which is used to pay off workers.
As a result of the debts, workers who were retired, since 2003 till date, have not been paid their gratuities.
But the Deputy Director, Public Affairs of the BPE, Mr. Joe Anichebe, reiterated that workers needed not to entertain any fears on job security or severance package.
According to him, the winding up was merely administrative.
He said, “What we are doing now is to divide the assets and liabilities among the 18 entities unbundled from the PHCN in preparation for their actual privatisation.
“Nothing has changed except that we want to make these entities truly independent. What is happening is part of the reform process in line with the Electricity Act.”
It would be recalled that 11 union leaders were jailed in 1988 for calling electricity workers out on strike, despite the law banning industrial action in the electricity sector.
By BPE’s plan, the workers will be transferred to the 18 new companies billed to take over the assets and liabilities of the PHCN on July 1.
The unbundling process will be completed on June 30.
Anichebe argued that the union had been involved in the process all along.
He said that the BPE had a record of meeting its obligations to workers of privatised firms.
He added, “We hire actuaries to look at workers liabilities. When we determine these, we use the proceeds from the non-core assets to pay off the workers, including pensions.”
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