By Linda Eroke
Workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) have suspended their planned industrial action, following Federal Government’s appointment of the Pioneer President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, as Chief Negotiator/Conciliator on labour issues in PHCN.
The workers, under the aegis of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the senior staff counterpart, Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC), had issued a 14 ultimatum to government to suspend further action on privatisation of PHCN until all outstanding labour issues are resolved. The unions threatened to shut down power supply across the country at the expiration of the ultimatum.
THISDAY gathered that Comrade Sunmonu, had met with leaders of both unions on April 19, 2011 at the Yaba Secretariat of the NLC, where he informed them of his appointment by government to act as negotiator on privatisation of PHCN, and had appealed to them to suspend their planned action in order to give room for proper dialogue.
General Secretary of NUEE, Comrade Joe Ajaero, who confirmed the meeting, explained that the decision to suspend the strike action was to allow the intervention of Comrade Sunmonu to negotiate all labour issues with government on their behalf.
“We appeal to our members to once again allow the intervention of cThis intervention is the reason for the suspension of our intended action, which would have commenced May 1, 2011,” Ajaero said.
However, in response to the strike threat, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Chukwuemeka Wogu, and the Minister of State for Power, Arc. Nuhu Wya, had appealed to the unions to shelve the planned industrial action as it could aggravate the existing tension within the country.
Wogu had in a letter to the unions urged expressed government’s commitment to amicable resolutions of outstanding labour issues. This, he said, informed the appointment of Sunmonu.
“Government is committed to the amicable resolution of the outstanding labour issues in PHCN. It is the resolve of government to address all the issues that informed the appointment of Hassan Sunmonu as the Chief Negotiator/Conciliator on the labour issues.
“You are aware of his appointment and the process of negotiation has already been kick-started by his preliminary meetings, first with you in Lagos on April 19 and with the Government side in Abuja on April 20, 2011. In view of the above, which is a reflection of government’s good intention, I wish to counsel that the process of negotiation and conciliation in good faith should be given a chance to succeed” the minister said.
Also, Wya, in a letter dated April 20, 2011 and signed by the power minister, reads: “The Ministry considers the mode of transmitting this ultimatum as irregular since the unions have the opportunity of presenting their grievances to government through the proper channel which is the management of PHCN.
“In addition to the wrong channel of communication, the Ministry considers the timing inappropriate. It is on record that we had written to you to express our readiness to continue with the dialogue started under the auspices of the Minister of Labour once the electioneering campaigns are over.
“In order to create an atmosphere that is conducive for an amicable resolution of the unions’ issues, it is advisable that the unions suspend their ultimatum to enable the incoming Administration set up its governance machinery. Thereafter, the issues of concern to the unions can be discussed and solution proffered, that will give us a win-win situation”, the letter stated.