Vanguard (Lagos)

17 December 2012

Nigeria: Labour Alleges Plot by Power Ministry to Scuttle Agreement With FG

BARELY a week after the Federal Government and labour signed agreement resolving labour issues ahead of the privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, organised labour in the sector, Monday claimed officials of the Power Ministry were plotting to scuttle the agreement and throw the nation and the sector into another round of industrial unrest.

Under the umbrella of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, labour alleged that the ministry officials were already misinterpreting the agreement signed Tuesday night especially on the issue of gratuity and among others.

NUEE in a statement by its General Secretary, Comrade Joe Ajaero, advised the government to call the ministry officials to order and ensure that the agreement was implemented as signed, warning that labour would resist any attempt to scuttle the agreement reached.

According to the statement "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. We regret that the Head of Service of the Federation has refused to enforce the Civil Service rule in the Ministry of Power that could have enabled many protagonists in the crisis that has engulfed the power sector to proceed on their terminal leave. These forces are creating confusion months after they should have proceeded on retirement leave."

"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 pensions. We are surprised that the "chewing gum" officials of the Ministry of Power, are in a hurry to deliver the pension of workers to their agents in the PFA's without actuarial valuation."

"Besides the mention of N170 billion Naira 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 staff accrued entitlement is above N500 billion and one component of these entitlement is more than theN170 billion under reference."

"As a Union, we want to assure the Executives of the Ministry who increased the number of Soldiers in all PHCN installations in the last few days, that we are committed more than ever before to resist any attempt by anti-worker agents in the Ministry to undermine the workers or even contemplate batch payment which was used to shortchange NITEL staff. PHCN workers Nationwide are therefore advised not to open any RSA until an actuarial valuation by bodies endorsed by their representatives are concluded."

"Similarly, 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. This last minute move by anti-progress forces like those before them must fail. The workers are therefore advised to be vigilant on the new mode of operation of these "attack dogs".

These forces from the Ministry are now insisting that they will pay 20 percent 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". Nigerians should therefore hold these expired Officers of the Ministry and their attack dogs responsible for any derailment of the process."

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