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FG orders sack of 20,000 PHCN workers


The Federal Government has ordered the retrenchment of no fewer than 20,000 workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, ahead of takeover by successful bidders of its assets.

It was gathered that the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, issued the directive to the Chief Executive Officers, CEOs, of the 18 successor companies to PHCN at a meeting in Abuja, to compile names and drastically reduce the 50,000 strong workforce before the new investors take over.

It was further  gathered that new investors demanded that the workforce must be pruned before government hands off.

Though it is not clear how government arrived at this figure, however, General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, Mr Joe Ajaero, who confirmed the directive to massively retrench the workforce, said it was obvious that the Federal Government had decided to truncate the implementation of the collective agreement reached with the unions.

Already, organised labour had kicked against the move and warned the government against such action even as the agreement reached between both parties in December 2012 on the terminal benefits of workers had not been implemented.

The Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, has petitioned the government through the Federal Ministry of Labour to explain the dangers and futility of government action when agreement on terminal benefits had not been honoured by the government.

On its part, NUEE directed members to shut down the power sector once any worker is issued a retrenchment letter without a financial back up in line with the December 2012 agreement.

NUEE, in a statement by Ajaero, rejected the planned retrenchment of workers without honouring the agreement the government entered into with the workers.

According to NUEE, “our attention has been drawn to the nocturnal meetings being held between Federal Government and all chief executive officers in Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, where a mandate to retrench workers in the power sector has been handed down to them. It is rather unfortunate and provoking that the Federal Government is hatching such obnoxious idea when agreement reached with the unions on payment of severance benefit is yet to be implemented.

“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 privatizing 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 the moment, agreement on certain indices to be used in calculating entitlements like life expectancy which the Federal Government put at 14 years is yet to be reconciled.

“By this posture, it is obvious that the Federal Government has decided to truncate the implementation of collective agreement reached with the unions. Nigerians should, therefore, hold government responsible for any reaction this action may generate.

“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 paid into their accounts should be seen as free money. The hour has come for you to defend your rights.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said it is now set to pay off the staff of PHCN. The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power, Ambassador Godknows Igali disclosed this, weekend.

Igali told journalists in Abuja that the fund for the payment of the workers’ severance package was ready and that in a matter of weeks, they would be paid as part of the process of the takeover of the sector by private investors.

His words: ”What we have done so far is to try to ensure that the entitlement of these people and their severance package is well calculated from the point of their engagement to the point where the government is bringing the private people to take over.

“We have agreed on virtually everything.  Government is preparing towards the formal takeover by the private sector. We expect the process to be seamless. So far, there is no major problem; the fund required to pay the people is available.”

The Permanent Secretary expressed satisfaction at the resolution of the issues surrounding the disengagement with the PHCN staff as well as casual workers and assured that the Federal Government  was working to ensure that they were all happily disengaged.

According to him, the new owners would certainly re-engage many of the workers as it would be practically impossible to operate without the old staff. He said the private sector operators would be made to adhere to the nation’s labour laws.

His words: “The people that are working in these power plants are Nigerians, and when the private people take over, they are not going to bring workers from Jupiter, Mercury or China; most of their workers would remain Nigerians.

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