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Ngige wades in as electricity workers suspend strike

Ngige

By Ukpono Ukpong and Doosuur Iwambe

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has apprehended the strike embarked upon by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) following an emergency meeting between the union, government and other stakeholders, at the instance of the Minister.

Ngige had summoned an emergency conciliation meeting between the Federal Government and the electricity workers on Wednesday to resolve the issues that precipitated the industrial action.

At the end of the meeting, the Nigerian electricity workers agreed to suspend their nationwide strike, which led to total blackout in different parts of the country.

On Wednesday morning, the electricity workers under the joint umbrella of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEC) Unions had shut down the national electric power grid following the industrial dispute declared by the electricity workers.

The issues are the alleged contravention of their Conditions of Service and Career Progression, stigmatisation of electricity staff by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and refusal of the market operators to fund the payment of entitlements of ex-PHCN staff as agreed in the December 2019 agreement.

Speaking with journalists after the meeting, which lasted about four hours, the President of NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajero, said they have been asked to suspend their strike action.

Ajaero expressed hope that the Federal Government would act in good faith on the issues in dispute which have lingered for years, to a very dangerous point.

He said they would take a pause on the industrial action and wait for two weeks as agreed in the meeting for the government to address their grievances.

The President of SSAEC, Comrade Chika Ben assured the nation that the matter would be nipped in the bud before it escalates, adding that there would be no further blackout in any part of the country.

Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, Ngige said after exhaustive deliberations on the issues in dispute, they agreed to constitute a bipartite committee to look into the grievances of the electricity workers and report back in two weeks.

According to Ngige, the members of the bipartite committee include the Minister of State for Power, Jeddy Agba(Chairman), Permanent Secretary, Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Permanent Secretary, General Services, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, representative of BPE and two representatives from NUEE and SSAEC.

The Minister said the committee has two weeks to report back to the whole house.

He said the meeting afforded them opportunity to thrash out all the issues in dispute, adding that his ministry has apprehended the dispute.

Daily Times gathered that the unions at 15:01Hrs on Wednesday, had switched off several 330kV transmission lines and 33kV feeder-lines across the power system network, resulting in generation-load imbalance and multiple voltage escalations at critical stations and substations.

Recall that the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had on August 15 directed its members to picket offices of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) nationwide on August 16, after which they should embark on strike on August 17.

The General Secretary, NUEE, Mr Joe Ajaero had, in a statement, said the picketing was to protest the directive by the TCN board that all Principal Managers in acting capacity going to Acting General Manager must appear for a promotion interview.

Ajaero said the directive was in contravention of the workers’ conditions of service and career progression paths, and alleged that it was unilaterally done without the relevant stakeholders.

Other issues raised include stigmatisation of staff from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation from working in other areas in the power sector, and non-payment of December 2019 entitlement of ex-PHCN staff

Earlier, the Managing Director of the TCN, Dr Sule Abdulaziz had, in a letter on Tuesday, following the threat by the workers to embark on the strike to drive home their demands, appealed to the electricity workers to suspend their proposed strike.

Dr Abdulaziz disclosed that the management of TCN had suspended the said proposed interview for those on acting appointment of Assistant General Managers and General Managers while discussion with the board is concluded.

“On the other two issues: circular from the office of Head of Service on stigmatisation of the defunct PHCN staff; payment of entitlement of ex-PHCN staff by market operator, the management has contacted the Honourable Minister of Power for his further action.

“In view of this development, we appeal to your union to stay action; please accept the assurances of our highest regards,” Abdulaziz stated.

Also, the Minister of State for Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, in a letter dated August 15, 2022 to the union, said that the ministry was committed to proffering solutions that would be acceptable to all parties concerned.

“May we appeal to your great union to allow us two weeks from the date of this letter to address the issues and come up with proposals toward acceptable resolution of all issues,“ he said.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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