Organised labour in the power sector has resolved to address concerns in Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) and Generation companies (GenCos) over increasing cases of casualisation of workers.
Under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), it declared that workers engaged as casuals would be converted to permanent employees with standards of decent employment.
General Secretary of NUEE, Joe Ajaero, who spoke at the inauguration of the National Youth Committee of NUEE in Lagos, lamented that precarious employment is now the bane of workers in the power sector.
Addressing the young unionists, Ajaero, said that the employment policy of the operators was destroying the sector, saying “the power sector has an aged workforce because embargo was placed on employment for over 10 years before privatisation. But they were recruiting casual workers. Thousands of casuals were engaged. We fought them to a standstill and insisted that they must be converted to permanent employment before privatisation. Today, the DisCos are practicing casualisation including the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
“We have unionised the casual workers and we are going to fight for their regularisation.”He encouraged them to be courageous and must be ready to confront the authorities without fear.
To achieve this, he urged the young leaders to avoid whatever could tarnish their image especially, corruption. He said “some of us have resurrected from death in what we have experienced by challenging the powers that be in this country. My colleagues can testify of my encounter with former President Goodluck Jonathan, when we told him that he cannot privatise the electricity industry.
“He asked to see me. We were in a room with his ministers. I gave him a global analysis that privatisation has not worked in any country of the world. And asked him, why do you want to privatise in Nigeria? He looked at me very well and said Comrade, I agree with you that even concessioning has not worked. But you know what, we have to go ahead and privatise.
“It is irreversible. I told him that it will not work. I didn’t know that I challenged the president with that. He removed his eye glasses and put it down and looked sternly at me. It was then I realised that it was not me that was talking but the union’s spirit that spoke out.”
Ajaero, who also recalled his encounters with former Minister of Labour and Employment, Emeka Nwogu and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Ayim Pius Ayim, declaring that “If you are not ready to talk to authorities and challenge them, you cannot do the job of unionism. What you need is courage but try not to be corrupt because they will get you. There is hardly any year they don’t petition against us. Make sure you keep your hands clean. Just like any other organisation, if we have laboured and the baton is given over to us. It will be wrong for you to allow the labour of our heroes’ past to be in vain.”
Earlier, President of NUEE, Martins Uzoegwu, informed the young unionists that belonging to a trade union was a fundamental human right, saying “let nobody tell you that you have no right to belong to the trade union. Trade union is a fundamental right. We must work together as trade unionists and members of the unions to confront the challenges facing us as workers, against the onslaught of the employers and capitalist.
“Unions fight for collective bargaining, better conditions of service for workers, and defend the rights of workers and ordinary citizens and so on. Youths are very important in the unions because they replace the aging leaders and take over the union’s administration.”