Daily Trust (Abuja)

13 December 2012

Nigeria: PHCN Workers Resolve Gratuity Spat With FG

The misunderstanding between the workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the Federal Government over pension liabilities and severance package may have come to a close late Tuesday when both parties signed an agreement to that end.

Minister of State for Power Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi said last week that all labour issues regarding the sale of the unbundled PHCN were going to be resolved this week. Both parties put pen to paper to solemnize a pact that will see the active workers who have served more than 10 years getting three months salary in lieu of notice and one month in lieu for employees that served less than 10 years.

The disagreement over the PHCN workers severance package had remained one of the major draw backs of the power sector reform which seek to hand over control of the former government monopoly to the private sector.

Negotiations had intensified since last year between both parties but broke down at some point while Professor Barth Nnaji was power minister.

While the workers insisted on the use of the 1979 pension law provisions, the Federal Government argued that the 2004 Pension Act takes precedence. At some point, the military were deployed to keep the workers who vowed not to be cowed away from office.

The argument has now been laid to rest after a seven-hour meeting at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in Abuja late Tuesday night.

The SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, presided over the meeting that culminated in the agreement which he and the Minister of State for Power, Hajiya Zainab Kuchi, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu and the Ag. Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Benjamin Dikki, signed on behalf of the Federal Government.

Besides, the President General, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele , Deputy President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Joe Ajaero, Deputy President, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Comrade Isaac Abegye and President, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC), Comrade Bede Opara signed for the workers.

According to the agreement, the Federal Government is to pay "total accrued pensions as at June 30, 2007 in accordance with the Defined Benefit Scheme stipulated in the PHCN 2010 conditions of service and 25 percent is payable to existing staff of PHCN while 75 percent shall be paid into Retirement Savings Account."

Labour minister Emeka Wogu who read the agreement, said "15 percent pension contributions shall be paid from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2012 in accordance with the provisions of the Pension Act 2004."

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