By Desmond Ejibas
Port Harcourt, Sept. 10, 2020 The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) has blamed the persisting blackouts in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers on the picketing of its offices by aggrieved workers.
Mr John Onyi, Manager, Corporate Communications, PHED, disclosed this in an interview with newsmen on Thursday in Port Harcourt.
NAN reports that the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) on Monday picketed the company’s offices in the four states, to protest the alleged poor welfare of its workers.
Onyi said that the workers’ actions had led to the company’s inability to distribute electricity to customers, thereby halting economic activities in the four states.
“So, we are surprised and disappointed at the picketing of our offices by NUEE, over their claim that the management refused to sign workers’ Conditions of Service and Procedural Agreement.
“Other claims are that the management refused to remit already deducted check off dues; insensitivity to workers’ welfare and the obnoxious policy of restructuring and repositioning.
“However, we wish to state and set the record straight that the adduced reasons given by the NUEE are far from the truth,” he said.
Onyi stated that the management never refused the signing of the workers’ conditions of service, as claimed by the workers’ union.
“This assertion is untrue because we agreed with NUEE to the signing of the conditions of service on May 23.
“However, on the day of the signing, NUEE did not show up, but the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) did and today, the SSAEAC has a copy of the signed document.
“Additionally, on June 1, another meeting was fixed at the instance of NUEE, and that was the last time we heard from the union, until the picketing of our offices.”
The PHED spokesman assured that the management was sensitive to the welfare of workers, adding that staff salaries had been paid up to August.
According to him, the company has also made permanent the appointment of over 60 workers, as well as increased their salaries, as proof of its commitment to workers’ welfare.
“Similarly, management recently recruited 355 graduates from different fields, to fortify the existing workforce. This was done without sacking any staff of the company.
“It is also important to state that under Dr Henry Ajagbawa’s leadership, salaries are paid not later than 30th of every month, a rare occurrence, prior to this time.
“Also, the management is not aware of the de-listing of members of the union. We know that membership of NUEE or SSAEC is voluntary,” he clarified.
Onyi said that the current PHED management was labour-friendly and was willing to continue talks with the aggrieved workers, with the aim of settling the dispute.
He noted that the company was making efforts to resolve the situation, to restore electricity supply to customers in the four states.