OPINION: Whose Side Is Labour On ?

WHOSE SIDE IS LABOUR ON? By John Chukwuka

 

The ongoing protest by the Nigerian Labour Union, National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) over the disengagement of some of its members in Ikeja Electric, is taking a negative dimension which is capable of plunging the whole network into darkness and crippling socio-economic activities in the areas covered by the electricity distribution company.

In the last three days, residents and commercial operations under Ikeja Electric network have been witnessing epileptic power supply and inconsistent services to its valued customers due to the aggressive picketing stance adopted by NUEE and other affiliate unions who have thrown their weight behind them.

Apart from barricading the entrances to the Head Office, Business Units and Undertakings, the Union members have also prevented the staff from gaining access into these premises thereby rendering them incapable of providing any quality or consistent services to its valued customer. This intrusion has also hampered the purchase of recharge cards and units for both prepaid and post-paid customers of the company.

All the power facilities including the 14 Transmission Stations and 57 Injection Sub-Stations from where power is distributed to customers under Ikeja Electric network have also been shut down and sealed by the Union members.

Media reports indicate that the picketing of the company is over recent layoffs. There are several reports paining a disturbing picture of how the labour union agitators and their touts – yes, they must have been touts – jumped into the company’s premises to enforce total disruption of its operations. How can this happen in a sane environment? Which picketing law allows unionists to display such illegal and condemnable acts in the name of protests?  The promoters of this activity no doubt have self-serving interests, else, how can one justify their actions as being the appropriate “sanction” on the company for staff that were laid off?

A recent advertorial by Ikeja Electric noted that the company has employed over 600 staff and promoted 74 all in the space of one year. 229 were asked to go for poor performance on the job. To the best of my knowledge, this might just be the only company in the power sector that is hiring on this commendable scale. The company disclosed that it had since hired 41 young graduate engineers to “enhance the sustainability of the business and create a platform for grooming future leaders in the sector.”

The publication also indicated that in the last one year over 245 unique learning and development interventions had been conducted with over 2000 staff benefitting from the training programmes. “A job re-grading exercise was conducted that flattened the previous 17 career levels that typically takes 30 – 32 years to become the CEO of Ikeja Electric to only 9 career levels. This allows for accelerated career growth within the organisation.”

Perhaps the promoters of this illegality against Ikeja Electric need to be reminded that the success of any enterprise is dependent on the quality of the people driving it. Must we remind these rampaging unionists that the public sector days where we never had accountability and performance parameters are long gone?

Nigeria’s power sector clearly needs an overhaul of its human capital profile to live up to the yearnings and aspirations of over 170 million Nigerians who have come to see darkness as a way of life.

The privatisation exercise was a huge leap for Nigeria in its quest for reforming the sector. This is the time for all Nigerians to rise up against people who have benefitted from the decadence of the past and cannot tell that the game is up. We have witnessed some improvement since privatisation, but we still have a long way to go as we are centuries behind due to decades of neglect and corruption in the sector.

One does not believe that a sincere Labour Union driven by a responsible leadership will embark on such a rudderless mission at the expense of the whole nation.

There are more civil ways for the Unions to engage a private company which has the authority to tweak its workforce to promote efficiency and service excellence. What would Labour protest over if the company went under? One really has to question the motive of Labour with regards to its recent activities in the power sector. Whose side is Labour on?

It is paramount for Nigerians to understand that the power sector needs huge investments in human capital to be effectively positioned for modern-day excellence in power generation, transmission and distribution.

We may be unwittingly given the nod to more darkness if the nation watches on idly to allow this festering new wave of illegality in the name of protests to thrive. Labour has in the past been the bastion of equity and progress. This recent trend looks more like sabotage and must be nipped in the bud. So, whose side is ‘Labour’ on?

 

 

Chukwuka is a Lagos Based Physician

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