By Victor Young
National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, has insisted that there is no going back on members plan to down tools and commence indefinite industrial action over unresolved labour issues including alleged refusal by some Distribution Companies in Nigeria, DISCOs to remit deducted contributory pension fund to workers’ Pension Fund Administrators, PFAs.
Among other grievances of members of NUEE include unpaid benefits to over 2000 disengaged staff of the defunct Power Holding Company, PHCN, since 2013; underpayment of over 50,000 ex-PHCN staff; payment of half salaries to workers by DISCOs, among other perceived unfair Labour practices.
General Secretary of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, told Vanguard that the union had no plans to extend the 21 day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government, DISCOs, Generation Companies, GENCOs, Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc, NBET, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to address concerned issues.
He said “we took time to issue the ultimatum ensuring that all due processes as required by law were followed. Once it expires, we are not going to extend it because we accommodated the room for extension in the ultimatum. The issues we raised are very germane and we are not going to take it lightly. We are just waiting for the expiration for action.”
Recall that in a petition to the Minister of Power, dated November 7, 2019, the union warned that it would declare a nationwide industrial unrest, if these demands were not met.
The petition by NUEE Ajaero, and copied to all DISCOs and GENCOs, read: “The union before the privatization of the then PHCN in 2013, warned that the exercise was not thorough and will not be in the best interest of Nigerians and workers in the sector. We were labeled and called names. ‘Today, the reality has dawned on all. We are all suffering for our refusal to listen to the lone voice crying in the wilderness, and wise counsel. We wish to draw your attention to various developments in the power sector since it was privatized and handed over to new investors on November 1, 2013.
“The following issues cutting across all facets of the sector are hereby highlighted for your information and necessary action. The problems created by Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, are BPE’s refusal to address and pay up over 2,000 disengaged Ex-PHCN staff since 2013.
”There was also illegal transfer of union properties to investors, especially in the GENCOS. i.e. schools built by the unions; deliberate refusal to differentiate between core and non-core assets in accordance with the Electricity Power Sector Reform, EPSRA, Act, 2005; and underpayment of over 50,000 Ex-PHCN staff.
“Those created by the GENCOS are that since taking over in November, 2013, 99% of all Generation Companies (GENCOS) nationwide have refused to sign conditions of service with workers, thus portraying them as ‘slave masters’ without conditions of work and rules of engagement.
”Mass de-unionization of union members with threat to loss of jobs to intending members; refusal/lock out of the union from all their premises; pilfering of union dues, especially in Egbin Power Plc; and denial of union rights to staff. The problems created by the DISCOS include refusal by some DISCOS to remit staff contributory pension to the Pension Fund Administrators, PFA; denial of retirement benefits to exited staff; casualization/outsourcing of workers and half salaries.
‘Our members under the DISCOs are now being paid half salaries on the 45th day because of intimidation by Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc, NBET, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, etc that insist on first Line charge (against Universal Labour Practice, International Conventions and Nigeria Labour Laws) to regulatory agencies; seize the collection and release whatever is left for staff salaries. The goose that lays the golden egg is now neglected.
“It is very painful and unfortunate that six years down the line after the take-over, no significant salary increase has taken place in the industry. Several efforts have been made to address the issues with the various stakeholders mentioned above to no avail.
”Rather, they have continued to thrive on the suffering of the down trodden workers in the electricity sector. As a responsible and patriotic stakeholder in the sector, it is our considered opinion that your office is inundated with these developments (for redress) which have been on for about six years.
”Unfortunately, letters to your office since assumption of duty are not acknowledged. Consequently, we use this medium to place your esteemed office on notice that we may not continue to guarantee industrial peace, if these issues are not addressed within 21 days. This is not a threat.”