Workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria have vowed to halt the handover of the five power generating firms to successful bidders unless the Federal Government pays off their severance packages.
The workers were reacting to Tuesday’s opening of bids for five power generation companies and the naming of the preferred bidders by the National Council on Privatisation.
The General Secretary, National Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Joe Ajaero, told our correspondent on Wednesday that the workers would resist any attempt to take over the Ugheli, Geregu, Sapele, Shiroro and Kainji power plants if the severance packages of the workers were not fully settled.
He said, “If they feel they can allocate it to themselves, let them go ahead. But like we have said, nobody takes any of those companies without the workers getting their rightful entitlements. That is an area that is not negotiable; but if they like, let them not complete negotiations, let them continue with their bidding.
“From the list of preferred bidders, it is pertinent to observe that the winners are those that have little or no technical expertise to manage and drive the power needs of the country. But one thing is sure; Nigerians should not expect that the workers will need to sacrifice by settling for anything short of the contents of the Condition of Service.”
“If the government claims lack of funds to settle the labour issues; that concept will be vehemently resisted, since they have decided to sell the companies at ridiculous prices,” he added.
In his reaction, the General Secretary, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, Mr. Abiodun Ogunsegha, said, “We have decided not to disturb the bidding process because our primary concern is the payment of our benefits.
“After the bidders have finished bidding, the next thing will be for them to take over, but we will not allow that to happen if our benefits are not paid.”
Asked if the government had given assurances on the payment of workers’ benefits before the firms would be taken over, Ogunsegha said the parties were still negotiating.
He said, “The BPE is doing the bidding and the sales but the government is the one to pay staff liabilities.
“But that is not our business. Our business is that before any of these companies take over a company where it will be obvious that the employees will no longer be needed or would have ceased to be employees of PHCN; our members must be paid, or we will not allow that to happen.”
Ogunsegha said the pronouncement of the government and the report of the eight-member Ajiboye committee on the loss of over N200bn in the PHCN Superannuation Fund were aimed at watering down the demands of the unions.
“No amount of tricks, misinformation or manipulation will remove the fact that the demands of the workers are factual, legitimate and right,” he said.