** Ngige tasks unions on industrial harmony
Asst News Editor
Nigeria’s electricity market lost a whopping N7.7bn to labour unrests in two years, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola has said.
This is even as the Minster of Labour and Employment, Senator (Dr) Chris Ngige called on trade unions to align themselves to the emerging paradigm shift of the present Federal Government by supporting and encouraging the dreams and aspirations of Government.
Both spoke at the 3rd Triennial National Delegates Conference of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) held in Abuja, Thursday.
Fashola said the sum was lost to labour crisis within the electricity market between April 2014 and March 2016, stressing that an employee who caused the employer such financial losses in all good conscience, should not expect improved welfare package or industrial peace.
Fashola said the heaviest losses due to the labour actions were recorded in the gas-to power. He recalled the occurrence in March 8 and 9 2016, by PENGASSAN that caused an estimated loss of N3.2bn.
According to him, there was a shut down of the Nigeria Gas Company (NGC) pipelines affecting eleven gas -fired power plants. He said the estimated gas unsold or lost, was about 304 mmsfed, which could have generated over 3,300 mega watts (mw).
Fashola noted that another huge loss occurred on May 22, 2015, when the NNPC strike affected all NNPC/NGC pipelines and shutting down 10 plants. He noted that N2bn and over 3,000 mw were lost to that PENGASSAN strike, stressing also that the February 8 and 9, 2016 nationwide tariff hike protest by the NLC resulted in the loss of N800 million in the electricity market.
He urged labour to take a cue from the developed world and focus on their job roles. He said : “Let me also ask all of you to remember that the only reason why you and I are employed in the public sector is to provide power for everybody , not to disrupt power supply.
Speaking also, Ngige said government’s goal of expanding the infrastructural and super-structural base of the nation’s economy could only be achieved by the labour movement ensuring industrial peace in the world of work through social dialogue with social partners.
Ngige said; “The dialectical relationship between capital and labour should be played down and minimized in order to enable a viable environment for sustainable development and growth of the nation devoid of industrial actions”.
“I wish to reiterate the commitment of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to provide level playing ground for all the trade unions in Nigeria.
“Also, I assure you that Government would endeavor at all times, to ensure the protection and promotion of the welfare of workers as a productive force to reckon with in the course of economic production.
On the issue of national minimum wage, Fashola reiterated that some states lacked the capacity to pay because not all receive the same resources.
Welcoming guests earlier to the occasion, the immediate past President-General of the union, Comrade (Engr) Bede Opara noted that he was leaving the union richer than he met it.
He said; “In terms of capacity building, I wish to reiterate that we have trained our members both locally and abroad. The aim is not only to keep them abreast with new trends in industrial relations but also to prepare them effectively to fit into the new scheme of things in the nation’s power sector.
“Over 500 members including NEC, Branch and Chapter executives and employees have benefited from the training. Members also benefited from the joint training organized in conjunction with the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE).
“We were able to sign an agreement with Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) in respect of a new Condition of Services for our members”
Opara revealed that the union’s exco under his watch, effectively negotiated with the Government for workers’ liabilities and other fringe benefits during and after the privatization of the of the power sector, including corporate disbursement of monetization arrears, payment of 50 per cent salary increment arrears to staff and permanent employment of casual workers in PHCN, among others.
He said : “SSAEAC has experienced a numeric growth of over 1,500 additional members across the country after a joint membership recruitment procedure was agreed by the two in-house unions. However, the attendant consequences of privatization are the biggest challenges facing the association.
“ Our membership strength is dwindling beyond imagination, due to indiscriminate and wanton disengagement of workers from service by companies in the power sector “.