Federal Republic of Nigeria Minister of State for Power Zainab Kuchi. The electrical workers represented by the Trade Union Congress negotiated a deal with the West African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Govt, electricity workers reach truce on power reforms
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 00:00 From Emeka Anuforo, Abuja News
• Labour gives nod for reforms to continue
AFTER a long meeting that stretched into Tuesday night, the Federal Government and the various workers’ unions in the electricity sector have sealed a landmark deal promising to allow its reforms to go on.
The agreement was preceded by long and tortuous negotiations at the meeting that started around 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday.
This accord portends relief coming after years of accusations and counter-accusations based largely on mistrust. The heated dispute between both parties was at its peak during Prof. Barth Nnaji’s tenure as Minister of Power. The situation had deteriorated to such a level that the electricity unions at some point declared a state of fasting and prayers against Nnaji’s tenure. Propagandists from both government and labour churned out accusations and counter-accusations.
Both parties remained at-daggers-drawn until government directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, to take over the negotiation of the issues.
Tuesday night, officials from both sides held hands, laughed out loud and exchanged jokes as they walked in to sign on the dotted lines and brief the press at the SGF’s conference room by the National Assembly at 11.30 p.m.
As President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele, puts it: “ Now, the government will have no more excuse that the union is preventing the reforms from working. We hope to see 24 hours power supply in Nigeria soon.”
Anyim; Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu; Minister of State for Power, Zainab Kuchi; Esele; Secretary General of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), and other officials were present at the meeting.
But the agreement did not come at no price. Both parties shifted grounds substantially, with government agreeing to some of the lingering demands of the unions. The total workers pension as at June 30, 2007 is to be paid in accordance with the 2010 Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) conditions of service: 25 per cent is payable to exiting PHCN workers while 75 per cent shall be paid into the Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs).
The agreement noted: “The total accrued gratuity as at June 30, 2012 shall be paid in accordance with the defined benefit scheme stipulated in the PHCN 2010 conditions of service, 15 per cent pension contribution shall be paid from July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2012 in accordance with the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2004,” the agreement also read.
It was also agreed that severance shall be paid as 20 per cent of total accrued benefits, among others.
Esele noted that the issues were resolved after a bout of heated arguments. He, however, noted that both parties had to shift ground in the interest of the country.
Kuchi stressed that the ministry would make funds available for the settlement of the payments.