• Monday, April 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

PHED signs agreement with workers, says Disco almost went under due to debt crisis

Power station

Power disruptions in the four states under the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) may have come to an end following conclusion of six-year-old negotiations and eventual signing of the much belaboured Conditions of Service (CoS).

The managing director of PHED, Henry Ajagbawa (PhD) who signed on behalf of the management along with the general manager, human capital development, Monica Benson, revealed that the Disco almost went under about one year ago due to poor revenue and debt crisis.

Labour was represented by the Secretary-General of National Union of Electricity Employee (NUEE), who is also the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Leo Ajaero, while the Zonal Director, Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Eligbai Iziren, witnessed the signing amidst solidarity songs by workers and union leaders.

Ajgbawa, a professional accountant, revealed that there is threat to the company and that PHED almost died through heavy debts and financial crisis. “Our revenue cannot pay salaries. We had to restructure and resorted to technical improvement. All funds have been going to system improvement. We had to embark on the Rumosi power project to boost power supply and increase revenue.

“We are committed to better salary without prompting or pressure from labour. We even intend to do profit sharing with the workers as a matter of policy and promise made. We had been running at a loss, grossing at most N2.2bn per month, but it has increased a bit to N2.7Bn due to reforms.

“We want you to take it for granted that when we get out of the woods, workers welfare would be looked into. We are aware that living wage is important for a worker, otherwise he will steal. That was why we increased wages of some categories of workers such as DSOs and linesmen. It is basic economics that income is equal to expenditure plus savings. If income cannot solve basic needs, the worker would go to his savings. If this does not exist, he may steal. So, salary is important to us as a company.”

In his remarks, the secretary-general of NUEE, Ajaero, said it was good that the CoS was being signed at last. He said the union adequately engaged the management of PHED over the years.

He warned that in the new tariff being expected, that it would be wrong to factor in other costs without salary increase. “It will not work because we will not work.”

He went on: “Personnel cost is the most important cost before diesel, transformers, wires, etc. If all the money goes out without the workers increase, workers will not work and the system will just not work. We are still on old salary. We urge PHED to be the first Disco to implement new salary structure we are presenting to them soon after this signing. The salary must reflect the realities of the day.”

He appealed to the PHED to consider some Covid-19 palliative to its workers.

Speaking, the Zonal Director of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity said it was NUEE that brought them into the dispute. “It was a prolonged one because it is a pioneering negotiation. Labour and management are partners and this is key. Management must take labour along and labour must know that there is only one CEO in an organisation. The Ministry upholds collective bargaining and the outcome. We frown at violation of agreed positions. Our office is open to both parties.”