Monday, August 9, 2010

Blackout Looms as PHCN Workers Embark on Strike

Blackout Looms as PHCN Workers Embark on Strike

The relative stability in power supply in the country may soon be disrupted as electricity workers under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) have directed their members to embark on indefinite strike action from Monday.
The workers are protesting against the Federal Gover-nment’s planned privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and failure to pay the workers accrued benefits amounting to over N69 billion.
The news of the imminent strike came hours after fire gutted the old Ijora Power Station in Lagos yesterday, destroying electrical equipment worth millions of naira.
The workers are protesting non-payment of arrears of monetisation from 2003 to date, balance of 150 per cent salary increase and casualisation of PHCN workforce.
Vice-President of Lagos/ Ogun Zone of NUEE, Mr. Mbang Obol Ntukube, said the government and PHCN management reneged on the agreement reached in May to address their grievances within four weeks.
Ntukube noted that the workers had since submitted their account details to the management but no payment was made.
On the possibility of negotiating with the government over the weekend to avert the strike, he said the workers are tired of holding talks with the government.
“We are not meeting with them again. What kind of meeting? They keep on wasting PHCN resources in holding meetings. Is it not government that is paying? It is from PHCN resources. You know what it costs to meet at Sheraton. We go there to meet every day at the expense of PHCN. We won’t meet again; we want payment,” he said.
Ntukube disclosed that Lagos/Ogun Zone was in total support of the actions of the National Secretariat of NUEE against the privatisation of PHCN and warned agents of privatisation to steer clear of PHCN installations, as the workers cannot guarantee their safety.
On the allegation that the workers are not doing enough to improve electricity supply, Zonal Organising Secretary, Mr. Richard Kedee, said without the efforts of the workers, the whole electricity network would have collapsed over long years of neglect. He pointed out that the workers cannibalised old equipment to repair new ones.
Both the NUEE and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) had earlier insisted that there was no going back on the July 25 deadline handed down to the management of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to address their grievances.
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that yesterday’s fire incident at the old Ijora Power Station was caused by welders working for an advertising agency, which was mounting a billboard at the top of the gigantic building.
It took the intervention of the men of the Lagos State Fire and Safety Services, Nigeria Ports Authority, Police and the Federal Road Safety Commission to put out the inferno.
At the time of the incident, the power station was not transmitting electricity as it had been abandoned over the years.

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