Electricity workers begin indefinite strike
Nationwide blackout looms as electricity workers begin indefinite strike this morning.
Anthony Sule, Assistant Secretary-General of NUEE, in a statement issued in Jos, the Plateau State capital, said the union had no option but to commence an indefinite strike as the 21-day ultimatum given to Saleh Mamman, Minister of Power, elapsed on Tuesday midnight.
He said the union’s decision to down tools remained the only option since there was no dialogue with the Federal Government to resolve the lingering industrial crisis in the sector.
“The ministry of power has failed to resolve some issues affecting members of the union since 2013 when the power sector was privatised especially issues with the over 2,000 disengaged former PHCN workers and their pay off.
“Some of the unresolved issues are the illegal transfer of union properties to power investors and the alleged refusal by some distribution companies (DisCos) to remit deducted contributory pension of their members of staff to pension managers”, the statement reads.
He added that these issues were contained in a memo to the minister dated 7th November 2019.
General Secretary of NUEE Joe Ajaero said it was regrettable that the Ministry of Power failed to respond positively to the strike notice.
Ajaero said the only response from the Ministry was the letter sent to the union on November 18. He said in the letter, the minister assured the union that something would be done immediately he settled down.
He said after waiting, the union again wrote the Minister on December 6 but up till yesterday, nothing had been done.
“The strike letter was sent to the Ministry of Power and there was one letter they wrote, saying the minister is not in the country and that he is still studying the situation. They said the minister would look into everything, that is all”.
He said the union made sure that it sent its letter to all the relevant authorities in the power sector, including security agencies to inform them of the union’s intension.
“I can assure you, the strike will commence any time from now,” he said.
Ajaero said the union had given more than enough opportunity for dialogue on the issues but that nothing was forthcoming from the government.
The union, in a memo dated November 7 and sent to the minister, warned that it will declare a nationwide strike if its demands were not met.
“Unpaid benefits to over 2000 disengaged staff of the defunct Power Holding Company, PHCN, since 2013; underpayment of over 50,000 ex-PHCN staff; payment of half salaries to workers by DISCOs, among other perceived unfair Labour practices.
“The following issues cutting across all facets of the sector are hereby highlighted for your information and necessary action. The problems created by Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, are BPE’s refusal to address and pay up over 2,000 disengaged Ex-PHCN staff since 2013.
“Unfortunately, letters to your office since the assumption of duty are not acknowledged.
“Consequently, we use this medium to place your esteemed office on notice that we may not continue to guarantee industrial peace if these issues are not addressed within 21 days. This is not a threat,” the memo read.
A power sector consultant who pleaded anonymity, said yesterday that the GenCos and DisCos were in dire need of N1.2 billion bailout to improve services.
He also said one of the stakeholders, the Eko Distribution Company, had reached out to the union showing areas it had complied with its workers’ demands.
Ajero said notwithstanding the efforts of the Eko DisCo, its services would still be affected since generation companies supply electricity to DisCos.