Nigerian government, electricity workers reach truce; set deadline on payment of severance benefits

The union had threatened to go on a strike to press home their demands.

The National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, has reached a truce with the Federal Government on payment of severance benefits to sacked electricity workers. A deadline of January 31 was reached by both parties for the completion of the payment of severance packages to the ex-staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.

The union had issued a 14-day ultimatum, after which, they threatened to embark on a strike to protest.

The resolution issued on Tuesday was signed by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Clement Illoh; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali; Representative of Bureau of Public Enterprises, Omojola Martina; and the NUEE President, Mansur Musa.

The resolution was also signed by the General Secretary NUEE, Olusegun Babatunde; President General, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, Bede Opara; and General Secretary, SSAEAC, Abiodun Ogunsegha.

As part of the resolution, all parties agreed that the non-payment of entitlements to staff of PHCN for July 2012 be referred to the implementation committee for conclusion on or before the end of January.

On the union’s complaints of victimisation of labour leaders, it was resolved that the matter be referred to the Federal Ministry of Power and the BPE to handle in accordance with extant regulations before the deadline.

Other resolutions also included that workers being owed salary arrears, who are yet to be severed, should stay put in their positions until they are paid by the Federal Government.

The parties also agreed that the FMP and BPE would fund a workshop to be organised by Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity in the first week of February 2014 for the new investors, unions and other stakeholders in the industry to enable stakeholders gain understanding of the new industry.

It was also resolved that all admitted casual workers be paid on or before the end of March 2014, while progressive payments would be tracked to ensure that the issue was finally resolved.

The meeting had directed that all pensions should be processed and payments effected accordingly, while the 7.5 per cent employer pension contribution of July 2012 to October 31, 2013 would be paid.

More resolutions included that payment of deductions from November 1, 2013 till date would be handled by the new operators into workers Retirement Savings Accounts, RSA, while BPE and FMP are expected to fast-track approval and payment of death benefits to beneficiaries within one month.

On staff re-engagement letters allegedly withheld by some new investors, the parties agreed that BPE should submit a comprehensive list of the re-engaged staff for confirmation.

The parties also directed that an implementation sub-committee be set up to verify and establish payment of certain entitlements listed in the October 2013 agreement and identify those stations that had paid and those that had not.

The resolution stated that any reduction or stoppage of salaries and wages of staff by the new investors is a violation of Section 21 of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2005. It directed that such deductions by defaulting operators be reversed. The parties involved asked BPE to submit the list of the 483 unclear Retirement Savings Account, RSA, Holders to the technical sub-committee for rectification.

The BPE said on Monday that it has so far remitted about N361.024 billion to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for the payment 43,375, or 94.79 per cent of the affected staff.

But the BPE stance is contrary to claims by the General Secretary of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, that more than 10,000 of the total 47,913 PHCN workforce presented to government, were yet to be paid their gratuity and pension.

The Head, Public Communications of the BPE, Chigbo Anichebe, said the validation of another 2,382 was concluded and awaiting payments, bringing the total number of staff verified for payment to 45, 757, or 95.5 per cent. Mr. Anichebe said the validation of the remaining 4.5 per cent of the work force was hampered by the inability to obtain documents/information to validate their claims to being PHCN staff.

He cited other constraints as irregular staff identity cards, duplication in staff numbers and names, lack of or irregular RSA personal identification number, PIN, and account numbers.

The other constraints, he said, also included some cases where the beneficiaries either failed to sign, thumb-print their benefit statements or inserted wrong passport photographs. There were also cases of corrupted biometric data or pictures.

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