Former ALSCON staff warn government over unpaid arrears

Posted by tjdetai on December 16th, 2015


Failure of the federal government to pay the severance benefits of former staff of Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) Plc may trigger another industrial crisis in the area, as the affected people at the weekend threatened to use any means available to them to get their allowances.

Kelechi Otuh, Akwa Ibom State council chairman, Metal Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, said in Abuja at the weekend that prior to the privatization of the company in 2007, the workers were owed over N6 billion, a development he said led to the death of many of their members.

The chairman refused to mention the other means they plan to use to recover their money. He said the company commenced production of aluminium ingots in 1997, but stopped in 1999 owing to financial and technical problems. He said this led to the downsizing of staff without due process of disengagement.

"Only part payments of our benefits were paid," he said.

Mr Otuh said long before the BPE decided to privatize ALSCON, the workers went to court to plead that the management of ALSCON be compelled to renegotiate their collective agreements, which had expired in 2001. Both the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) and the National Industrial Court (NIC) granted judgement in favour of ALSCON workers, by ordering that ALSCON management should negotiate new conditions of service with the workers. In their resolution of October 13, 2005, the National Assembly upheld the IAP decision and ordered ALSCON management to comply without further delay.

"We are calling on the federal government and the Bureau of Public Enterprises, whose responsibility it was to pay employees' liabilities in privatized enterprises, to urgently intervene in this protracted issue of unpaid severance to former ALSCON employees so that the workers and the entire community of Ikot Abasi will work and live in peace, especially now that the amnesty programme is still on course," he said.

Troubled privatisation

ALSCON began operations in October 1997 and a few months later reached a production capacity of 40 tonnes. The plant was designed to produce 193 000 tonnes of aluminium annually. As at today, a tonne of aluminium costs about 3,000 USD. What this means is that at full capacity, ALSCON can generate approximately 0 million every year.

The privatisation of ALSCON was one of the most protracted in the annals of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). The privatisation began in 2003 and lasted till 2007, when ALSCON was handed over to DAYSEN Holdings, who invited Russian Aluminium to manage the plant.

To date, some key issues relating to the privatization have not been resolved, including the unpaid severance benefits to former staff of ALSCON.

On June 3, 2007, militants invaded ALSCON residential quarters and abducted six Russian expatriates, including the Managing Director of the company. The militants claimed that they had to strike in order to attract the government's attention to the plight of over 1800 former ALSCON staff, whose severance benefits are being withheld by the BPE.

Most of these staff are still within Ikot Abasi, patiently waiting for their entitlements, while over 20 of them have reportedly died.

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