On going negotiations between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Federal Government on a number of labour issues have broken down with the government drafting armed soldiers to take over the facilities of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Rather than resort to high handed methods, we believe that there is still room for further dialogue to break the logjam. More so when the Chief Negotiator, Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, the pioneer President of the NLC and the Secretary of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity ( OATUU) is yet to submit his report to government.
We note that the current stalemate, among other issues, has been engendered by disagreement over pension and gratuity. While the union had demanded for 25 percent, which hitherto had been deducted from workers salary for pension and gratuity, the government had insisted on paying 25 percent up till 2004, and 15 per cent from 2005 to date.
The union had further argued that pension and gratuity is part of the condition of service of all PHCN workers and their employers have been deducting the 25 per cent to date. That the Pension Act, which government is hinging the payment of 15 per cent ostensibly on when the Act came into being was not tenable.
We note that no where in the Pension Act was gratuity abrogated, particularly when this is part of the condition of service of employees. Of much concern is that the workers are being denied this benefit when they have collectively contributed to it over the years. It is expected that total deductions of workers should be paid to them.
It is instructive that negotiations between the union and government had dragged on for so long due to the inability to agree on basic issues in line with the condition of service of employment.
This resort to strong arm tactics in an industrial relations dispute is condemnable, as it might escalate the crisis in the power sector.
We call on government to withdraw soldiers from PHCN facilities, and resume meaningful dialogue with the union with a view to resolving the stalemate. Both parties are urged to avoid unfair labour practices to allow negotiations to hold sway.
Also, the Chief Negotiator has not submitted his team’s report for implementation, which implies possibility of further dialogue with the workers.