Residents in four states in the South-South will experience blackout from today as workers of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company commence an indefinite strike over alleged unfair labour practices.
The PHEDC supplies electricity to Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states.
The National Union of Electricity Employees on Monday directed workers of the company to shut power supply to those states with effect from Tuesday (today).
The directive by the leadership of the union was said to be due to the alleged sacking and reduction in salaries of the union activists by the PHEDC.
Giving the directive, the General Secretary, NUEE, Mr. Joseph Ajaero, said the workers should halt all electricity transmission and distribution operations of the PHEDC.
He also asked the workers to picket the company’s offices across the four states until further notice.
He added that the union had been silent over the alleged impunity and abuse of workers’ rights for over two years.
Ajero said the workers could no longer tolerate the alleged unfair labour practices, adding that it was time for the labour union to stop the abuse of workers’ rights and make the PHEDC management to face the reality.
He said, “We did not want Nigerians to think we have been sabotaging the operations because of our opposition to privatisation of the sector. Unfortunately, the PHEDC has continued to abuse workers’ rights and treat other labour-related issues with disdain.
“So, we have ordered that from tomorrow (Tuesday), power supply to the four states where the PHEDC covers be shut and all offices of the company across the four states be picketed until further notice. The shutdown will include transmission and distributing services to the states. They will not render any services to the company until we direct otherwise.”
It was learnt that a 14-day ultimatum, which had earlier been issued by the union and signed by the Senior Assistant General Secretary of the union, Mr. Cyprian Akoh, to the management of the PHEDC had expired last week.
In the letter, the union had accused the management of the electricity company of arbitrarily dismissing 33 employees and terminating their appointments without cogent reason(s).
It stated, “The case of the 33 workers, who declined to accept your bid to arbitrarily slash their wages is most annoying as you first deployed them in other locations only to welcome them with termination of appointment letters. This level of deceit, intimidation and victimisation cannot go unchallenged.”
It also accused the management of institutionalising casual/contract appointment as labour laws of the country and International Labour Organisation conventions.
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Source : Punch