This Day (Lagos)

18 December 2012

Nigeria: Labour Alleges Attempt to Shortchange PHCN Workers

Barely one week after the Federal Government had reached agreement with the unions in the power sector to settle all outstanding benefits of employees of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has alleged plot by the power ministry to sabotage the agreement.

The union in a statement issued yesterday, said the officials in the power ministry are insisting that they will pay 20 per cent of gratuity when the agreement stated that: "Total accrued gratuity as at June 30, 2012 shall be paid in accordance with the defined benefit scheme stipulated in the PHCN 2010 Conditions of Service."

The statement signed by the union's Secretary, Joe Ajaero, stated that the workers were committed more than ever before to resist any attempt by power ministry to undermine the workers or even contemplate batch payment.

However, for proper implementation of the new agreement, the union advised that a technical committee should be set up to look at the modalities as agreed in the process of negotiation, to ensure that no member of staff is short changed.

To this end, the union directed all PHCN staff nationwide not to open any Retirement Savings Account (RSA) until, "an actuarial valuation by bodies endorsed by their representatives are concluded."

Similarly, it warned that any amount paid into any staff account without a report of the technical committee where workers are fully represented should be regarded as productivity bonus, and not part of the negotiated agreement.

"Our attention has been drawn to various Media Reports credited to some Executives of the ministry of power purportedly misinterpreting the recently signed agreement between the Federal Government and Labour. However, for proper implementation of this New Agreement, a Technical Committee to look at the modalities as agreed in the process of Negotiation, to ensure that no staff is short changed, should be put in place.

"Besides, it is a universally acceptable practice to conduct actuarial valuation before determining the actual worth of any staff's pension. We are surprised that the officials of the Ministry of Power, are in a hurry to deliver the pension of workers to the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) without actuarial valuation.

"Besides the mention of N170 billion by the Ministry of Power as the money provided for the settlement of PHCN staff entitlements clearly portrays them as people, who have made up their minds to truncate the process. For the avoidance of doubt and from the result of the Agreement, the members of staff accrued entitlement is above N500 billion and one component of these entitlement is more than the N170 billion under reference. PHCN workers nationwide are therefore advised not to open any RSA until an actuarial valuation by bodies endorsed by their representatives are concluded.

"The workers are therefore advised to be vigilant on the new mode of operation as these forces from the Ministry are now insisting that they will pay 20 per cent of Gratuity when the Agreement explicitly said 'Total Accrued Gratuity as at June 30, 2012 shall be paid in accordance with the defined benefit scheme' stipulated in the PHCN 2010 Conditions of Service," the union added.

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