5 February 2013

Nigeria: Labour - Why We Entertain Fear Over PHCN Privatisation

Organised labour in the nation's power sector has expressed fear that the Federal Government may back out of the agreement reached with the unions towards the end of the privatisation programme in the sector.

National President, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, Mr. Bede Opara, who expressed the workers' fear said the move by government to hand over facilities of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) with concluding the labour issues is quite disturbing.

Opara, however, warned that any attempt by government to shortchange workers will be highly resisted by the unions, stressing that no investor will be allowed to take over PHCN facilities without the payment of workers entitlement.

"We have been negotiating with government over the years and we know that government officials are experts in violating agreements. We entertain such fears and that is why we say we will not let go until every worker has been paid his due. Promising us that the new investors would retain every worker is impracticable. It is not possible. If a man buys a company, you do not tell him who to employ and who not to employ. But we believe that the best hands will still remain in the system.

"We will always prevail on them to appreciate that labour is the most important resource in any industry or workplace. The interests of Nigerian workers remain paramount because without the workers, where will the company go? No matter the type of machines you install, human beings are going to operate them.

"If you treat human beings right, they treat the machines right. Therefore, we have a reason to talk and we will continue to talk so that we understand ourselves and avoid any communication gap which can be counter-productive," Opara said.

Speaking further, he appealed to government to ensure that the latest agreement it entered with the unions in the sector is implemented to the letter.

"We are appealing that this latest agreement between government and the industrial unions in the nation' power sector is implemented to the letter. You will recall that the Federal Government's side was led by no less a person than the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim who, in every sense of the word, is President Goodluck Jonathan's spokesperson.

"We appeal to him to make sure that the agreement does not go the way of previous ones, whereby, we struggled to get government to honour its own side of the agreements. However, if government reneges, we will fight them. But we know that Senator Anyim will not fail because he is an honourable man," he added.

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