The federal government may have concluded plans to lay off about 11,000 employees of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in a bid to cut cost. The figure represents 27.5 per cent of the 40,000 members of staff of the electricity company.
THISDAY learnt that the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BP E) had two weeks ago issued a directive to the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the PHCN to compile a list of staff members that would be affected in the exercise.
The implication is that those that would be affected would not be paid their pension entitlements ahead of the winding down of the public corporation.
However, the unions in the sector have kicked against the move, stating that it was rather unfortunate and provoking that the federal government could hatch such obnoxious idea when agreement reached with the unions on the payment of severance benefit is yet to be implemented.
It was gathered that the two unions in the sector had petitioned the federal government through the Ministers of Power and Labour and Productivity explaining the dangers and futility of the government action when the agreement on labour issues had not been honoured.
General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero, who confirmed the directive, said it had become obvious that the federal government had decided to truncate the implementation of the collective agreement reached with the unions.
Ajaero said the union had equally directed its members to stop work should the government make good its threat to retrench workers in the sector when labour issues had not been settled.
He added that government should be held responsible for any reaction the directive may generate in the power sector.
“Information reaching us reveals that arrangement to close down PHCN’s Corporate Headquarters has been put in place. While people are still working, government plans to kill their management.
“It was equally gathered that the federal government has concluded plans not to pay pension or transfer money to the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), all in the name of driving workers to their early graves.
“We are worried that the government could be privatising without cash backing, as information at our disposal suggests that about N43 billion is available out of the over N400 billion agreed with the unions. At moment, agreement on certain indices to be used in calculating entitlements like life expectancy which the federal government put at 114 years is yet to be reconciled.
“While there is still opportunity for the federal government to follow due process, we wish to state unequivocally that PHCN workers will legitimately resist every attempt to shave their hair in their absence.
“Should the federal government make good its threat to retrench workers in the sector when labour issues have not been settled, all members are advised to stop work, while those monies are paid into their accounts should see it as free money,” Ajaero said.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in conjunction with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday said it had concluded plans to build 600,000 houses across the country for the benefit of Nigerian workers.
Chairman of the NLC/TUC joint committee on the centenary celebration, Mr. Promise Adewusi, said this during a pre-May-day media briefing in Abuja.
Adewusi stated that only worker from both the public and the private sector would be entitled to benefit from the housing scheme.
"All Nigerians are workers, but only worker from either the public or the private sector, whose employers guarantee their payment will benefit from the houses," he said.
The committee noted that this year's May-day celebration was special and it is being planned with the collaborative efforts of Nigeria Centenary Celebration Committee, as it coincides with the nation’s centenary.
The committee also disclosed that events marking the 2013 workers day would commence tomorrow with a symposium which would feature foremost human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), and Senator Uche Chukwumerije, amongst others as discussants.
Adewusi said the symposium would focus on major national issues, such as corruption, national security, job creation and the challenges of nation building.
He also said President Goodluck Jonathan was being expected to roll-out the government's welfare package for the workers on May 1.
"This is the May day that is going to come before the centenary celebration, and it is going to be a joing celebration by the NLC and the TUC, we are starting with a symposium on Tuesday which will be resourceful," he said.
Adewusi said the NLC had concluded arrangement to inaugurates a documentary on the evolution of Nigerian labour movement in relation to national development.