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PHCN'S WORKERS AT CROSSROADS

By NBF News

Last week, we had a write-up on the power sector reform where we highlighted the problems in the sector and published the views of some labour leaders on the issue of labour and as it relates to the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

These include payment of arrears of monetization which is being addressed and payments have commenced after the unions met with the minister on July 24, 2010 in Lagos. Payment of 137% outstanding salary increase (13% paid already but since 2009)

Regularization of over 10,000 casual workers within the establishment.

The unions also said that it will be much tidy to implement the component of transfer of employees and services to the successor companies as enunciated under the Power Reforms Act when all the issues listed above are settled, consequent upon the fact that terms and conditions of service to be drawn up by the designated successor companies need not be unnecessarily encumbered.

'Though government has assured that there wouldn't be any job loss, as training will be provided to put the workers in the mainstream of new technology, but we want all the existing employment issues to be settled.

'The new successor is an independent body which is at liberty to retain or fire any worker. Government had never handled the issue of the past privatization with any traceable success when it comes to the welfare of workers', said the General Secretary of SSAEAC, Comrade Abiodun Ogunsegha.

He also noted that the solution to the power sector's problem lies with the government sincerity in the process of the reform. Comrade Ogunsegha said that while government might have succeeded with the privatization of NITEL, the power sector still need government's intervention because of its structure. 'In the unbundling, only the transmission is being handled by government, but we want to advise that the six power generation stations should not be sold'.

'Rather, private participation should be allowed to come and compete favorably with the existing structures on ground instead of selling government properties at peanuts', he said. The labour leaders lamented that states that may be coming to buy the existing stations may not have the capacity to operate them.

'River State once built a 100KV station, but could only generate 16KV and presently the station is in-operative. Is it the same government that will now buy and manage the existing stations? He emphasized that workers of PHCN have been the ones working assiduously to sustain the existing dilapidated stations equipment despite the fact that there have been practically little support from the government.

As the adage aptly says 'once beaten, twice shy', it will be better if government can accede to the demand of workers who are breadwinners to many. As it will be criminally unjust if the privatization should take effect without proper recourse to the fate of millions of PHCN workers and their dependants.