Says I am not struggling with my responsibility, no dichotomy between employees and employers but are Partners in progress
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, has blamed misconception especially from the employee ranks for sharp disagreements that some time occur between Government and labour, insisting that with legitimate regimes in our land now, the two have become one in the context of today’s realities.
Speaking at the National Delegate’s Conference, a three day event which would cumulate into election of officials to run the affairs of the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied companies (SSAEAC), for 3 years, the Minister observed that the misconception was as a result of colonial experience in which labour had dealings with the colonial Masters in Government, hence earlier labour agitations were essentially meant to deal with these usurpers who lacked legitimacy to preside over the affairs of our nation, but today “We are all part and parcel of common purpose, hence trade unions and associations are platforms to ventilate our collective concerns on issues of common interests.”
He said, he has chosen to change the labour and government dichotomy to an engagement to employer and employee in a mutually beneficial as this will emphasize, that they are the same with same destiny working together, in this case to provide electricity in the safe and sustainable manner.
He observed that the Unions are not doing enough in sensitizing their members in this thinking, “there must be harmony in the electricity sector, we must know that we need to work with our colleagues in other areas like gas supply, we cannot afford to be selfish as we all collectively must improve on our productivity”, just as he said our pay as employees are for job done, as we are not known to be paid before rendering service, but are paid in arrears. The Minister said that “there must be change in the attitude of our employees towards these private concerns running the power sector now, they are not our opponents, let’s try to understand their language, let’s work with them, together let’s provide Nigerians with power”.
He said employees should see that their fortunes are tied to the employers, whereas the unions are to help negotiations in the collective interests, they cannot take the place of employers. Reacting to insinuation that he has been struggling with his responsibility, he dismissed that, as he said he has barely spent four months plus in office, it could have been practically impossible to solve the power sector’s problems in this short while, he however assured Nigerians that “with deep thoughts, thinking, honesty, clear and sustained efforts, will make us to be able to track the problems, hence we will succeed in providing stable electricity for Nigerians”.
The Minister advised employees to shun strikes as colossal resources are lost, for instance N7.7 billion was said to have been lost in the Power sector in two years, this is in a sector that is in dire need of capital and such money, could have been put to proper use. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, aslo at the event, challenged the Association which is a Trade Union in the power sector to be alive to its crucial role in the socio-economic development of Nigeria, which largely depended on regular power supply, he said, the contribution of the unions is of immense significant to President Muhammad Buhari Change Mantra, just as he enjoined them to de-emphasize dichotomy between capital and labour, insisting that Government will ensure level playing field for industrial harmony in the country.
The out-going President General of SSAEAC, Engr. Bede Opara, earlier, in his welcome address urged the Minister Fashola to appraise the new owners of power assets to know that there are existing laws in Nigeria guarding industrial relations; hence they are expected to obey these laws, as they operate their power plants.
The President Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama, assured Government that “we are responsible labour unions; we don’t just go on strikes without first exploring dialogue which would bring to fore our grievances, after which we sign agreements”. We go ahead with strikes if at the end, parties to agreements renege on their implementation.