As the Federal Government and labour representatives move to resume the deadlocked talks with workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria over their factitious pension fund, there are indications of fresh obstacles to successful negotiations.
Essentially, the House of Representatives Committee on Power is not in favour of giving a special treatment to the embattled PHCN workers in the ongoing privatisation exercise.
Saturday PUNCH investigations showed that members of the House Committee Chairman on Power, led by Patrick Ikhariale, want the issue of PHCN workers resolved in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Pension Act, which makes the employee to contribute 7.5 percent of his salary, and an equal amount from the employer.
The Ikhariale committee is of the view that it will be wrong for the FG to give 15 percent contribution to the workers of the PHCN in violation of the 2004 PA since their counterparts who are under the contributory pension are getting 7.5 percent.
A labour leader told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the talks, which are expected to resume next week, would commence soon.
He however warned that government operatives should avoid grandstanding on the issue, though he wasn’t specific on the new date for the talks that are expected to take care of the labour content of the ongoing privatisation of the PHCN.
Also, a vice-president of the National Union of Electricity Employees, Mr. Etete Ntukuben, confirmed on the telephone that “the talks would resume very soon,” though he too couldn’t give a specific date.
The position of the lawmakers (7.5 percent) follows overtures from the FG to offer 15 percent of the workers’ salaries to them as their pension arrears.
But organised labour and the PHCN workers are insisting on approaching the negotiations with their earlier demand of 25 percent of the total emolument, a demand which is being resisted by those negotiating on behalf of the government.
A member of the government’s negotiating team said that “even the 15 percent being proposed as a settlement to the wage dispute is being done on compassionate grounds in the interest of peace.”
But Ntukuben said on Friday that the workers would only insist on what they considered to be their proper entitlements.
According to him, PHCN workers’ demand for 25 percent of total emoluments of their salaries was part of the condition of service.
He said that it was the position of workers that the condition of service remained a legal document which should be followed in the resolution of the impasse between the workers and the FG over pension and gratuities.
He stated however that PHCN workers did not have confidence in the negotiations and were waiting to see what the government would offer.
– The Punch