Contrary to the general belief, it appears the last has not been heard regarding the face-off between the government and electricity workers over their severance benefits.
The Federal Government last Wednesday announced the approval of N384 billion as payoff package for the electricity workers following the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) into 18 companies.
In the view of the electricity workers who have long rejected the offer, perhaps the announcement should have been reserved for such a time when all the modalities of the payment process had been put in place.
They argued that the pay-off package of N384 billion approved by the Federal Government does not add up to what each worker is supposed to receive, based on the years they have put into service.
This development raises concern over the success of the privatisation exercise in which labour issues have been a major stumbling block. Questions now arise over the potency of the agreement signed between the government and the electricity workers union in December 2012.
Part of the 11th December, 2012 agreement signed by both parties states that the Federal Government had agreed to extend the payment of workers’ gratuity to July 1, 2007. Government will calculate 15 per cent contribution from government and workers from July 1, 2007 up to June 30, 2012, and pay in accordance with the contributory pension scheme.
While 25 per cent will be paid to the workers, the remaining 75 per cent will be paid into the workers’ retirement saving accounts. On the issue of severance benefit, it was agreed that 20 per cent should be paid based on the total value of gratuity and pension.
The agreement seems clear enough but the renewed agitations raise eyebrows. Is the N384 billion approved by government a breach of the agreement?
A top official of the bureau for public enterprises who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue said the n384 billion which will be raised from the federation account is enough to address the pay-off package of all regular workers.
The official refuted claims that government arrived at the amount without the consent of the unions and insisted that payments would commence as soon as the modalities of the process were concluded.