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Rumble in Power sector as unions fight over membership

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Focus on access to power, Sahara Group urges investors in UK, Africa…SSAEAC accuses NUEE of poaching, seeks sharing of union dues

…You’re amorphous, mischievous, NUEE fires back

By Victor Young

TWO of the unions in the nation’s Power sector; the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and its Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, are at each other throat over membership.

Vanguard investigation revealed that the fight over membership has been on for sometimes now and that the leadership of the SSAEAC has taken NUEE to National Industrial Court, NIC, accusing the former of poaching.

According to Vanguard’s checks, the matter comes up later in February.

Investigations revealed that while the matter is pending, SSAEAC has also petitioned the Ministry of Labour and Employment, complaining over the same issue of poaching and begging the ministry to intervene.

The feud got to a boiling point during NUEE’s delegates’ conference on December 19, 2019, where the President-General of SSAEAC, Chris Okonkwo was booed by some members of NUEE over his alleged uncomplimentary role in the nationwide strike by NUEE  on December 10, 2019.

Okonkwo was to later  same  day at a briefing, among others, declared the NUEE’ strike illegal and insisted that NUEE was poaching SSAEAC members.

Vanguard gathered that ahead of the planned strike by NUEE, it wrote to SSAEAC on the need to join hand to prosecute the planned strike since the issues in contention affected all workers in the sector.

SSAEAC letter to NUEE

In its reply to NUEE’s letter, SSAEAC wrote among others, “We in SSAEAC commend your desire for united trade unions (SSAEAC and NUEE) action, to redress the lingering decadence in the power sector. Our coordinated and concerted effort and will most certainly yield better result, hope and trust among our teeming members. As we commend your initiative, we have the following concerns and observations which if taken up will end the seeming unnecessary tension/division between our Unions:

(1.) In the past, specifically by our letter on planned action on Trade Dispute against TCN in August 2019 and another of 27th January 2019,both being on anti-Labour actions against our Union (SSAEAC), your Union interfered with it despite our soliciting for cooperation. We ask why your union acted as such despite notice on matters that affected our union. We never meddled in your union matter if notified ahead. We think that such cooperation issues between SSAEAC and NUEE need to be resolved to enable us work as a team against our common enemies.

(2.) Issues raised in your letter to the Minister, addressed the situation in the GenCos and DisCos without mentioning TCN. This suggests protection for the reckless and oppressive management of TCN. TCN workers have consequently been abused for two and half years now, which we have raised with your Union on some occasions. We are of the view that issues affecting workers in the Nigeria’s power sector must be addressed since it is out collective pain.

READ ALSO: Nigerians to pay more for electricity from April 1 — NERC

(3.) Our  disagreement in membership classification and earnings which is before the courts is still a source of conflict among our teeming officers in the field. We had approached your union to have negotiated settlement but were rebuffed. We believe that we have an opportunity now to resolve these issues and get a win-win solution in all the cases.

In the above circumstance, we propose that urgent meeting of the leadership or nominees of the two unions be arranged to address the issues raised and chart ways forward for a unified labour movement in the Nigeria’s power sector. This is a sure way to achieve the goal stated in your letters. Imagine a situation where SSAEAC and NUEE face each enemy without being divided in interest.”

NUEE’s letter to Ministry of Labour

Besides, Vanguard gathered that SSAEAC equally petitioned the Ministry of Labour and Employment, complaining over NUEE’s alleged poaching of members and sought for intervention.

Consequently, NUEE in a response to a letter of invitation from the ministry, said among others,   “Please recall Minister Sir that the House of Representatives joined as parties to the issue on December 12, 2019 and we are worried that you are trying to resuscitate this matter at this material time. On the reference to SSAEAC on this matter, SSAEAC is not our employers and cannot interfere with operations of NUEE.

“We don’t want to believe that your Ministry is providing SSAEAC with an extra leg to stand. It may interest you that we entered into series of correspondence with SSAEAC on this issue of 21 days ultimatum and part of the reasons they backed out is because of court cases we are having with them. Consequently, SSAEAC can’t be rushing to your office for reconciliation when they are already in court. We will not like to meet with SSAEAC with any pretence of reconciliation especially with pendency of cases in court against us.

“Besides, we will not meet with SSAEAC with headship of a General Manager in place in SSAEAC; unless he is representing the Managing Director TCN in such a meeting. We are surprised that you are mentioning other Industrial Relations matters when you had earlier delved into jurisdiction scope of the Union by trying to award membership to SSAEAC without consulting us.

“You will also recall that a response to this letter which we also forwarded to your office is yet to receive attention. This development smells of bias and partianship on the side of your ministry. All these issues are already pending in the Courts and will be subjudice if your office will be adjudicating on some of the issues which SSAEAC had taken to the Courts.

This bias manifested further in the erroneous reference to our Union as a junior Staff Union, a reference you had earlier made in your letter to SSAEAC contrary to position of the law.

Please note that some Union’s were never  registered as Junior Staff Unions example Nurses & Mid Wife, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Medical & Health Workers Union of Nigeria, National Union of Electricity Employees NUEE, etc.

These Unions organise both Junior and senior Employees, based on their professional nature even though the Ministry erroneously registered SSAEAC which was a branch of SSASGOG.

Vanguard

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