Another Nationwide Strike In The Power Sector
Two weeks after the nationwide electricity workers’ strike that caused the country to go into blackout, there are signs that a new strike is about to take place because the government is allegedly unwilling to address the issue of unpaid entitlements to former employees of the now-defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, or PHCN, among other things.
This information was revealed at the same time as it was reported that various government organizations, including the anti-graft groups, were intimidating labor leaders in the industry over agreements made with the government during the privatization of the sector.
The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEC)’s industrial action two weeks ago, which resulted in a one-day total blackout of the country, included the issue of unpaid benefits as one of its causes.
The issue of unpaid benefits to some of the ex-PHCN workers has become a roadblock to addressing the issues as the committee established to tackle the issues that caused the strike two weeks ago meet today.
According to the sources,the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE, which oversees the federal government’s privatization initiative, among other government agencies, are reportedly avoiding paying benefits and other unpaid entitlements.
At the committee’s final meeting today, it was learned that even while other matters are moving forward successfully, the unpaid benefits issue could jeopardize the committee’s progress.
A source said “The government agencies including the BPE are shying away from taking the responsibility for the payment of the entitlements. They are passing bucks and this is a major hindrance to resolving the issues. Though other issues are progressing well, the issue of payment will stall the resolution of the issues. The workers are already very restive because the two weeks given to resolve the matter ends tomorrow (today). There is tension in the sector because the workers are aware of the development and are pushing for a resumption of the suspended strike. So, tomorrow’s meeting is very crucial to either the resolution of the matter or, there will be fresh industrial unrest.”
It was reported that union leaders in the sector have reportedly been harassed by government organizations, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), since the most recent strike two weeks ago over the agreements reached with the federal government during the privatization exercise in 2013.
EFCC and other authorities have written the Union leaders many letters requesting access to all the agreements made with the government during the privatization of the now-defunct PHCN.
One of the labour leaders said that “the harassment is becoming unbearable because the EFCC and other government agencies know where to get the agreements being asked for especially at the Ministry of Labour and Employment. We cannot be intimidated. Our right to industrial action cannot be denied us and no amount of harassment, intimidation or otherwise can stop us. We are undaunted.”
In the meantime, yesterday, electricity workers in Lagos and Ogun Zonal council said they were prepared for the strike to resume whenever the union gave a command.
Leaders of the zone had a briefing in Lagos, they warned that “any threat on the leadership of the Union is a threat to Workers in the Sector and Nigerian workers in general. We are on standby.”
In a joint statement made by Akeem Ladoja and Temple Iworima
Assistant General Secretary, Lagos/Ogun) and Vice President (Lagos/ Ogun) , read by Iworima, the workers stated “It is an undeniable truth that the Power Sector privatization has not added value to the lives of the ordinary Nigerians. The entire exercise which could be described as a charade has not brought any meaningful impact/improvement of the Sector, rather, it has led the Nation to a huge set back.
“The infrastructural development by the New Business Ownersin the Power Sector has almost gone comatose while theSocio-Economic status of the average worker in the Sector has continued to decline amidst prevailing harsh economic conditions. The same equipment inherited Pre-Privatization have remained what drives the Sector as there are no visible attempt by the Generation Companies (GenCos) and Distribution Companies (DisCos) to upgrade and expand their capacities/networks”