Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Electricity workers under the aegis of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) in federal universities, polytechnics, and Colleges of Education have threatened to embark on industrial action.
While NASU served notice to go on an indefinite strike from April 1 if the shortfalls in their salaries were not corrected, NUEE threatened to shut down the power sector if the Minister of Power, Mr. Saleh Mamman, and other employers in the sector fail to take adequate precautionary measures to protect staff against COVID-19.
In a letter to the minister, NUEE General Secretary, Mr. Joe Ajaero, threatened that the minister would be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), especially its headquarters, for his failure to comply with the federal government’s directive on people that travelled to countries with high cases of infection to self-isolate.
“Our attention has been drawn to the return of the Minister of Power, Mr. Saleh Mamman, from his trip to Germany and Egypt while on the entourage of the Chief of Staff to the President. The minister despite the president’s directive to self-isolate reported at the office in the midst of agitation and complains from the staff at TCN Headquarters, Abuja. If not for the intervention of the union, there would have been pandemonium at the office, on Monday, March 23, 2020.
“In view of recent developments, NUEE wishes to state unequivocally that the Minister of Power will be held responsible for the transmission of COVID-19 to any staff in TCN, especially its headquarters for his failure to comply with the federal government’s directive on people that travelled to countries with high cases of infection to self-isolation,” the union said.
It also gave a 24-hour deadline to employers in the power sector to take adequate precautionary measures to protect their workers, especially those interfacing with the public, or else it would pull out its members from work.
On his part, NASU General Secretary, Educational and Associated Institutions, Mr. Peters Adeyemi, yesterday in Abuja, decried the deduction of the National Housing Fund (NHF) from tertiary institutions’ workers’ salaries.
“Those managing the Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System (IPPIS) cannot afford to make mistakes in the March salaries. If the mistakes are made again, we will shut down all federal institutions in the country immediately. What we are telling them now is to move quickly and correct the anomalies. They should not allow the February mistake to repeat itself in the March salaries, if not, our reaction will be total,” he added.
According to him, the IPPIS did not take into account the peculiarities of workers in the tertiary institutions.
“With this first experiment, it is clear that the platform designed for us did not take our peculiarities on board. Rather, what was done was to massively cut our members’ salaries and allowances and also deducted NHF, which has not been implemented in our institutions for many years. The reason the tertiary institutions pulled out from NHF was that it was not serving the purpose for which it was established. Indeed, some of the conditions that were specified in the scheme included the presentation of Certificate of Occupancy before accessing the facility. As a result of that, we protested against our inclusion and the government removed us from the scheme.
“Because IPPIS has our data, the government just went ahead to play around with our salaries taking what they ought not to have taken from salaries and refusing to pay what they ought to have paid to us,” he stated.
He also explained that there were some NASU members that were not paid salaries while some were underpaid.
He added that allowances captured in the Polytechnic, Universities, and Colleges of Education 2009 agreement entered into with the federal government were not captured by IPPIS.
He said the union’s planned seven-day warning strike was shelved due to the closure of all institutions across the country because of the COVID-19 outbreak, adding: “We cannot embark on a strike when the institutions are all closed. We cannot also wait for workers not to be paid for three months. That is why if by the end of this month, we are short-changed again, we would have no choice other than to proceed on a total strike.”
Adeyemi added that peculiarities that ought to have been integrated into IPPIS system included 65 years retirement age, sabbatical leave, earned allowances and peculiarity allowances.
He also stated that more than 200 non-academic members with salary accounts in microfinance banks in some institutions such as Federal College of Education Abeokuta were not paid February salaries.