The Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have called on federal government to as a matter of urgency pay their gratuities and pensions to members of Power Holding Company (PHCN), insisting that they were being shortchanged by government.
Speaking with newsmen in Lagos, the President of SSAEC, Bede Opara disclosed that the federal government complained of not having money to pay for PHCN workers pensions and gratuities.
According to him, “in paying our pensions, government posited that it will pay into RSA (Retirement Savings Accounts) to be opened by all staff and it will be calculated in accordance with our superannuation up to June 2004, which takes into recognition 25 per cent of our salaries deducted for that purpose and from June 2004 (effective date of the Pension Reform Act) it will calculate only 15 per cent which the minimum per cent granted by the Pension Act”.
The unions contended that pensions should be calculated based on the practice of superannuation fund by calculating all pensions to date on 25 per cent deducted from staff salaries for the purpose.
He said: “It will foolhardy for government to claim at this time that there is money to finance its privatisation programme by paying its labour liabilities. The same government that had enough money to mount media campaign and attack on the unions at the onset of its programme, is now claiming that it has no money to pay our benefits, thereby short-changing us.”
The unions also warned government to stop the attempt at forcing their members to open RSAs when the benefit of workers is yet to be finalised.
On his part, Secretary General of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, noted that if government failed to pay all their requirements, it would be difficult to bring in the new investors.
It was also disclosed by the PHCN unions that the much touted hurried planned privatisation of the company by the federal government had a hidden agenda, as the company’s total assets worth N1.5trillion was under-valued for N200billion to give it to buyers for pea nuts.
They also declared that the new tariff regime introduced by government has jacked up the monthly revenue of PHCN from over N18billion to N25billion to make it possible for purported buyers’ safe landing to acquiring the assets.
Comrade Ajaero explained that the 14-months-long negotiation between the government and labour unions that ended without concluding the most important issues of severance payment, gratuity and pensions, turned to a mere drama as government made u-turn to turn down workers’ request because it claimed it had no money to pay workers for assets of PHCN worth N1.5trillion, now to be valued for only N200billion
“The building assets, transformers, transmission cable lines, cars, poles of PHCN nationwide is now valued for N200billion, though government claimed the company liability is N400billion, when put together all the total assets of PHCN is worth N1.5trillion” , he said
Ajaero, who is the current Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), called on “the federal government to sell PHCN to the workers for the planned N200billion, stressing that the superannuation fund of 25 per cent deducted from workers meant for pensions and gratuity in PHCN stood at N400billion in June 2010, which government had not accounted for, can be used to settle for PHCN, and the balance paid back to workers.