Workers in the electricity sector have warned the Federal Government that the neglect of salaries in the recent Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Minimum Remittance Orders issued to Discos, may spell doom for the sector.
The Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC), in a letter to the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, and signed by the Deputy General Secretary of the association, Nnamdi Ajibo, said the recent Minimum Remittance Orders issued to Discos, which required Discos to pay 100% of MO Invoice and minimum percentage of NBET bill, without taking salary of staff that collect the revenue into consideration, was a major oversight that can trigger a domino effect capable of pulling down the sector‘s progress.
He said, “The reason is that most DisCos are not paying the paltry staff salaries as and when due or the full amounts. The potential negative impact of this situation is better imagined because a hungry worker will not collect money and return it or be healthy in mind to do his best.
“As a historical insight, salaries and minimum operational costs were treated as first-line charges in the pre-privatization time, hence, the relative higher collection efficiencies of the time.”
SSAEAC urged the minister to consider the above recommendations for implementation as sensible and capable of arresting the sector market from collapse or instability.
According to the union, NERC should verify sector workers’ salaries with a view guaranteeing timely and full payment by first-line charge principle.
He stated that, “NERC should consider adjusting the minimum remittance percentages to accommodate the need for timely and full payment of salaries. It should consider setting standard emoluments for sector workers to elicit higher productivity in the whole sector. Presently, ancillary service providers (NERC and NBET) earn more than the first-line workers/operators/risk-takers in GenCos, TCN and DisCos.”
The union said, under the NERC orders, staff salary is considered as last-line charge, instead of first-line charge, against global labour practice, international conventions and Nigerian labour laws, as enshrined in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Protection of Wages Convention, No. 95.
“This is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue as it has big potential to make workers withdraw services and ground the sector, which can be avoided by this contribution, if taken seriously. Already, such crises have happened in Jos and Kaduna DisCos, where the sector unions reacted to such situations, with obvious collection drop consequences,” the association noted.
The association further said, as a responsible stakeholder and a usual solutions contributor, “SSAEAC, hereby picks up the matter of DisCos value-chain collection issues and point out the looming danger of collapse of the system, if not urgently arrested.
“As a union of senior staff of the sector nationwide, we have first-hand information on goings-on in all parts of the sector. From equipment gap to metering gap, investment gap to understaffing; poor cash-flow to irregular and incomplete salary payments for services rendered; and collection and remittance gap.”