The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) may be swimming in fresh turmoil on both ends as its workers began picketing of its offices in four states at the same time the Afam community, its host community in Rivers State, staged a demonstration.
The Afam community re-launched its protests pressing for free power supply as a host community, while the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) staged picketing in Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
The case with the Afa community has been a running battle where the community once demanded for power without pay and later demanded for subsidized rates. Over 11 meetings have been held over the years to resolve the matter but the stakeholders especially the Rivers State Ministry of Power, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), SPDC, the company that built the power plant, etc, have not moved the dialogue forward.
Back home, the employees have accused the management of ignoring workers welfare and carrying out a kind of restructuring that the workers did not understand.
Reacting, the management spoke through the public relations officer, John Onyi, saying “the avoidable action of the union is becoming one too many for a service provider with the mandate of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission to distribute power supply in its franchise area seamlessly”.
“The Union had through press interviews and pamphlets in circulation adduced the following reasons for embarking on the picketing: Refusal of Management to sign Condition of Service and Procedural Agreement, refusal to remit already deducted check-off dues, insensitivity to workers welfare and obnoxious policy of restructuring and repositioning,” PHED said.
“The Management therefore, wishes to state and set the record straight without any iota of contradiction that the adduced reasons are far from truth. The facts they say will always remain sacrosanct.
“For emphasis, the Management of PHED never refused the signing of the condition of service. In fact, it was the leadership of Dr. Henry Ajagbawa that actualised the lingering CoS of about six years. After painstaking corrections/input from both parties, it was agreed for signing on the 23rd May 2020. The stage was set for the signing but NUEE did not turn up but Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies did and today SSAEC has a copy of the signed copy. PHED is still wondering why NUEE did not come for the signing.
“On the 1st June 2020, another meeting was fixed at their instance and as a responsive organization, PHED obliged them and that was the last time we heard from the Union until today.
“The Union check-off dues has been up to date in terms of remittance except two months in 2019 that are having reconciliation issue with the bank.
“We are aghast on the claim by the Union that PHED is insensitive to the welfare of the workers when salaries of the workers have been up to date. Not only that PHED gave permanent appointment to over 60 DSOs who were formerly outsourced with mouth watering salary. Recently, the management recruited 355 graduates from different fields to fortify the existing workforce and in all this, nobody has been sacked. It is also noteworthy to mention that under Ajagbawa, salaries are not paid later than 30th of every month, a rare occurrence prior to this time.
“On the de-listing of their members, management is not aware of such move since membership of either belonging to NUEE or SSAEC is voluntary. The present management has been labour friendly and its doors are always open to dialogue with the Unions for mutual benefits,” it said.
The management said discussion would continue the next day.