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Ex-PHCN Workers Sack Benin Electricity Distribution Company's Offices In Delta Over Non-payment Of Severance Benefits

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 29, (THEWILL) â€' Former employees of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) Tuesday sacked the Warri, Ughelli and other offices of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company's (BEDC) in Delta State over the non-payment of their severance benefits by the successor company.

The protest by the ex-PHCN workers came on a day a coalition of labour unions including Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), and the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) also picketed all the main offices of BEDC in Warri and its environs.

The exercise which lasted for hours caused heavy gridlock in the ever-busy Warri/Sapele Road where BEDC zonal office is located.

Some of the protesters also blocked the East-West Road in Ughelli, protesting the non-payment of their salaries arrears which had accrued before their were disengaged.

The protesters who organised themselves into groups were said to have stormed various BEDC's in Warri, Enerhen, Ekpan, Effurun and Ughelli, threatening to continue the protest each day until their demands are met.

Business Managers and other categories of workers of BEDC were seen at the early hours of the day stranded outside their offices gate after they were locked out by the picketers.

In Warri, the angry protesters were led by NLC representative, Augustine Omars, who vowed that the protesters would occupy all BEDC offices in Warri and environs until their entitlements are properly settled by the company.

Speaking during the exercise, Omars said all the offices will remain shut until the issues are resolved as he decried the non-payment of terminal benefits to workers laid off by the defunct PHCN as earlier agreed upon.

According to him it is unacceptable for BEDC to continue to treat the workers in such manners, lamenting that all attempts to draw the attention of the company to honour the earlier agreement had failed.

Omars however accused the Managing Director of the company, Mrs. Funke Osibodu, of what he described as a 'display of arrogance' and deliberately ignoring several official communication to her office.

''Before the concessioning, BEDC agreed that all the severed workers would get their dues, but they have refused to do their part of the bargain after we have made sacrifices to keep our side of the bargain.

''We have written several letters to her, but she's adamant. They have left us with no option than to picket.

'They promised us severance packages, but today our families are suffering. Our leaving here will depend on the BEDC.

'Even if it takes them 20 years to meet our demands, we will remain here. This is the last warning before we will go on a solidarity strike', he said.

Also speaking on the protest, the President of the Warri branch of NUEE, Mr Augustine Njagwani, said the union members were being dehumanised by the company, stressing that since the retrenchment, life had become difficult for most of the disengaged workers.