PHCN crisis parley ends in deadlock
The talks between the Federal Government and labour over the power sector crisis yesterday ended in a stalemate.
Minister of Power Barth Nnaji and officials of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) failed to turn up at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity venue of the meeting.
The talks were to address the threat by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) to go on strike.
The meeting was initiated by Labour and Productivity Minister Emeka Wogu. The NLC President Abdulwaheed Omar, was also absent. He sent a representative.
Former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Timiebi Koripamo Agary, one of the government representatives, warned the unions to shelve the strike because the prevailing security constraints the government is battling with.
She reiterated that government was open to discussion at all times and that gratuity and pension which are the lingering issues in the sector could be resolved if all parties agree to dialogue.
The NLC and electricity workers have been battling the government over its intention to privatise the power sector without what they termed due process with regards to workers pension and gratuities.
The meeting which started around 3pm was attended by Deputy President of the NLC who is also General Secretary of NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero, NLC’s Head of Administration, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbuaja, and Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Comrade John Kolawole.
But it was learnt that the Federal Government made certain concessions which labour representatives agreed to take to their National Executive Council (NEC) after which all parties reconvene on October 22 to address the remaining issues.
Besides, a source at the meeting said the 7.5 percent contributory pension by the workers would no longer be deducted pending the outcome of the ongoing negotiations between the two parties.
The source said: “We are all committed to social dialogue. But we said the withdrawal of soldiers would signal the take off for dialogue which has to take place under a calm situation.
“Our demands are clear, certainty of gratuity, certainty of pension, certainty of decent wage for a worker. It would be shocking to hear that workers in PHCN are yet to collect their June salary.”
Wogu assured the unions that their salaries for June will be paid before the end of the week.
The NLC put its affiliates and Nigerians on notice over its plan to call a general strike over the PHCN crisis.
A statement by NLC Assistant General Secretary, Denja Yaqub, said the labour body was mobilising for the strike as the Federal Government had not shown readiness to listen to the demands of PHCN workers.
Yaqub said the NLC was displeased that the Federal Government was trying to “shortchange” PHCN employees and had been using soldiers to intimidate them and force them to collect severance letters.
“Fellow Nigerians, let’s prepare to defend the rights of employees of Power Holding Company of Nigeria as the Nigerian Government prepares to short change them.
“Just as the report of a committee the government set up to resolve issues is being expected, armed soldiers are being used to intimidate the workers as well as attempt to force workers to collect their severance letters.
“The ultimatum issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress on these issues, particularly the immediate withdrawal of armed soldiers from PHCN work zones, expires in 48 hours and all affiliates of NLC and its state councils have already been put on notice on what follows after the expiration of this ultimatum, based on the pronouncement of the National Executive Council of the NLC.