By Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOS â€” SENIOR Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, weekend, threatened to shut down the power sector of the nationâ€™s economy if the Federal GovernmentÂ refused to pay members monetisation benefits and put on hold the winding up of Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, until all labour related issues were addressed in line with agreement reached by the two parties.
The association said since the commencement of the monetisation policy in 2003, PHCN workers had not received a kobo.
President-General of SSAEAC, Mr Bede Opara, who spoke to journalists in Lagos, also said lack of gas supply to PHCN was a deliberate ploy by some people to drive home their selfish agenda, wondering why private power stations in the country were getting uninterrupted gas supply, but the public power stations were not.
He lamented that as at weekend, the power generation had dropped to 2,900 megawatts from the generating capacity of 5, 482 megawatts.
According to him, â€œwe have not collected any dime as far as the monetisation of benefits is concerned since its commencement in 2003. We dialogued and discussed with government over the issue to no avail.
â€œWe have been informed that it has not been captured in 2010 budget. We do not want to go on strike because of the matter. But we are being pushed to the wall. The issue is heating up the system and workers are becoming very restive.
â€œWe hope the Acting President will address the issue before it degenerates. As at today, we understand it requires about N78 billion to upset the monetisation benefits arrears.
â€œAnother contentious issue is the planned winding up of PHCN. The government is pushing the winding-up of PHCN with vigour without honouring the agreement reached with organised labour concerning labour related issues.
â€œLabour and government reached an agreement that before PHCN ceases to exist and take over 18 successor companies, all labour related issues must be addressed. Some of the issues are that all willing staff of PHCN must be transferred to the successorâ€™s companies, all assets and liabilities of PHCN must be transferred to successor companies and that payment of benefits to all staff who would do not want to belong to the successor companies must be done before the winding up of PHCN.â€
Today, the government is pushing up the winding up with speed and nothing is being said about the agreement. We are asking government to honour the agreement or we will be forced to declare industrial action in the sector to compel government to respect the pact it reached with us.
It is a major threat to industrial peace. We do not wind a situation where workers would one day wake to discover that they do have job again and their benefits unpaid. It is our responsibility as labour to prevent such problem.â€
He said the workers were ready to cooperate with the Acting President towards stabilising power supply in the country and asked for a conducive environment and all necessary tools.
According to him: â€œWe call on the Federal Government to look inward and equip the workers of PHCN because the successful rehabilitation of the Sapele, Shiroro and Jebba Power Stations, with solid input of PHCN Engineers and Technicians which was devoid of foreign assistance, it is obvious that the electricity industry has quality workforce that would work and guarantee steady electricity supply in Nigeria in no distant time if given the opportunityâ€.