It has emerged that the owners of the privatised generation and distribution companies of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are expected to accommodate vibrant unionism in their operations within the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), notwithstanding their ownership profile.
THISDAY gathered that in line with extant provisions in Nigeria’s labour laws, the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) and National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), extracted a commitment from the government to safeguard unionism in the sector during a recent agreement it signed with the federal government to pave the way for government’s eventual handover of the purchased power assets to their new owners.
By this development, new owners of the power utilities power will have to put up with allowing workers within their employ to freely associate especially with the aim of furthering their welfare perhaps through their existing labour houses, namely, SSAEAC and the NUEE. The agreement signed by both parties recently in Abuja indicated that irrespective of the preference of the new utilities owners, “unhindered unionisation in the new companies is guaranteed in line with law.”
The agreement had emanated from a meeting, which created an opportunity for both parties to review the progress made by the implementation committee of the PHCN workers disengagement entitlements, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), and the National Pension Commission (PenCom).
Apart from reaching a truce on the payment of all severance benefits of workers within November, the government also conceded to arrange for a post-retirement training of PHCN workers while the extant policy on 10 per cent equity shareholding for workers from the government’s equity in the companies will have to be implemented in due course.
The process leading to the privatisation and final handover of the various successor companies created from the unbundling of PHCN had gone through various challenges relating to settlement of labour issues in the programme. The unions had at various times engaged the government in their quest to ensure equity in payment of their disengagement entitlements and had amongst other benefits, secured for their members six-month post-privatisation job retention after which the new owners can finally lay off workers that may be surplus to their requirements.
It is however gathered that the unions in the new dispensation, while being accorded room for unionisation, will not be allowed to become unnecessary hindrances to the operations of the new investors especially with regards to alleged uneconomical practices that obtained with the defunct PHCN which they were part of.
Information from This Day was used in this report.