Labour Cautions FG

Labour Cautions FG

…Says It’s Worrisome, May Strangulate the Country …Wants Govt to Suspend Move to Hike VAT Organised Labour has again cautioned the Federal Government on the nation’s rising debt profile, “resulting from government’s unsaturated appetite for borrowing and foreign loans”. The President of the United Labour Congress, Mr Joe Ajaero, gave the warning on Wednesday when

…Says It’s Worrisome, May Strangulate the Country

…Wants Govt to Suspend Move to Hike VAT

Organised Labour has again cautioned the Federal Government on the nation’s rising debt profile, “resulting from government’s unsaturated appetite for borrowing and foreign loans”.

The President of the United Labour Congress, Mr Joe Ajaero, gave the warning on Wednesday when he led hundreds of workers to mark May Day at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.

Ajaero warned on the implications of taking foreign loans as this could leave the country in perpetual struggle to repay the principal sums and the piling interests.

He also deplored the increasing unemployment rate in the country, describing the trend as worrisome and needing urgent measures to reverse.

The National Bureau of Statistics has put Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 23.1 per cent, the highest in recent years.

The NBS said that people between 18 and 35 years were mostly affected by the unemployment problem, while the country’s debt profile, according to the Debt Management Office stands at N24.3 trillion.

He said: “The high unemployment rate is unacceptable. Our economic managers seem ill-equipped to handle the situation.

“They beat their chests about exiting recession, growing foreign reserve and stabilising exchange rate.”

“The economy currently lacks capacity to create new jobs. As such, youth unemployment remains high– a time bomb waiting to explode. “

Ajaero also told government to halt wanton killings across the country, noting that the situation has reached an alarming proportion.

He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari must show that the lives of Nigerians matter by taking drastic actions to call officers responsible for security but failed to account to order.”

He also harped on the need for government at all levels as well as private sector employers to implement the N30, 000 minimum wage.

He, however, commended Buhari and the National Assembly for refusing to yield to forces that attempted to truncate the new wage benchmark.

The labour leader called on government to review the privatisation of the electricity sector, saying that the sector was riddled with corruption.

He told Buhari to sign the law to complete the Ajaokuta Steel Mill as well as the Academic Research Institute Bill and to review the petroleum subsidy regime for transparency and accountability.

The Organised Labour Movement has also urged the Federal Government to remedy the huge salary disparity in core civil service as compared to other Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Bobboi Kaigama, President, Trade Union Congress, made the call during the 2019 Worker’s Day Celebration on Wednesday in Abuja.

The theme of the Workers Day is “Another 100 Years of Struggle for Jobs, Dignity and Social Justice in Nigeria’’.

He said that the huge salary disparity in the core civil service was a major concern to many.

Kaigama said government should reinstate the tenure policy in the civil service, stop the over-dependence on consultants and improve the work environment.

“We call on the government to ensure adequate and timely payment of the salaries for public sector workers especially those at the state and local governments. This would make the public service attractive to top talents and minimise the lure of official graft,” he said.

The TUC president noted that the public service was the engine room of government policy articulation and the implementation of public programmes.

He added that unfortunately, the public service in Nigeria was marked by low pay and huge salary disparity in the core civil service when compared to other MDAs.

The labour leader said: “This needs to be addressed as it negates the ILO’s principles of equal pay for work of equal value. There are also the challenges of delay in the payment of promotion arrears, transfer allowance and other legitimate claims of workers and the dearth of working tools and conducive workspaces for workers.”

“Also, of paramount concern to workers is the policy that discarded the tenure system for the top echelon in our civil service making the civil service top heavy and promoting career stagnation and indiscipline.”

He, however, said that Nigerian workers are worried by constraints imposed by the dearth of deliberate planning of the national economy for many years.

He said that it was unfortunate that the 1985 military coup not only ended the era of national development planning but also, instituted the disarticulation of the annual budgets from discernible milestones of economic development in Nigeria.

He said: “We urge all the Governments in Nigeria to make deliberate efforts to return to national development planning. The advantages in doing so are many, including fixing the weak plan-budget link and thereby addressing the poor coherence in programmes and projects implementation. There is a need for the systematic and credible monitoring of the execution of development programmes to ensure that government projects meet set targets and service identified needs.”

While calling for the professionalisation of the Ministry of National Planning which he said is very critical in this regard, the TUC president advised the President to appoint a Minister with the requisite training and experience to administer the crucial ministry.

He also commended the commitment of the present government to fighting official corruption adding that, “There is an increase in the number of public officials and their collaborators in the private sector who have been successfully prosecuted and convicted on charges of corruption.”

“It is important for all Nigerians to see the fight against corruption as a collective battle which must be fought in a transparent and holistic manner.”

“Corrupt persons in and outside government must be dutifully tracked and diligently prosecuted.”

“This requires a reformed judiciary. We also reiterate our demand for specialised courts to speed up the prosecution of all corruption cases. Corruption cases must be dispensed with in a specific period of time.”

He also said organised labour views the huge severance payment and pension to political office holders as a form of corruption.

He added that it is even more disturbing when many of the recipients of these self-sponsored and self-benefitting allowances are Governors who left the office with piles of unpaid salaries, gratuity and pension liabilities.

He said: “Furthermore, we demand that recovered looted funds must be transparently accounted for and utilized to revitalise the economy and attend to the welfare of citizens.”

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Wednesday also commended labour unions for their understanding and cooperation in the last four years, which ensured  that the state did not witness any industrial action.

Ambode gave the commendation at the May Day Rally, held at the Agege Stadium, Lagos, with the theme, “Another 100 Years of Jobs, Dignity and Social Justice in Nigeria”.

He attributed the industrial harmony and peace in the state to the maturity and cooperation of the labour unions.

The governor commended the unions for adopting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms rather than resorting to industrial action.

Ambode, who was represented by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Rotimi Ogunleye, said his administration since inception in May 2015, prioritised workers welfare.

He said: “We worked closely with the union leaders to address policy and infrastructural issues.”

The governor said these were the bane of effectiveness and efficiency of workers in the state.

“Having devoted myself to these objectives for the past four years and, having worked with you all, I am glad to say that it has been a pleasure to be your partner on this journey.”

“I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and I am grateful for the cooperation and support that you have given me.”

“Indeed, I am pleased that together, we have given the people of Lagos State four productive years of sustained industrial harmony.”

“This is, perhaps, the longest period of such in the modern history of our state and this was made possible by the culture of mutual respect and understanding we nurtured and deployed.”

Ambode said aside regular trainings and seminars that workers in the state were exposed to, the State Government also embarked on a successful campaign of reorientation in the public service.

He said: “This enabled the workers to embrace the ‘Growth Mindset’ in place of the hitherto limiting ‘Fixed Mindset’ that pervaded the public service.”

He said that conscious effort was also made by his administration to meet the pension obligations and reduce outstanding payments, while expanding programmes geared toward providing social safety nets to the aged and retired officers.

“Very importantly, our administration concluded the review of the state’s pension law by signing the amended Lagos State Pension Reform Law in the first quarter of Year 2019.”

“This amendment, among others, increased the government’s pension contribution from 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent. This is a legacy that we are proud to bequeath to the hardworking officers of the Lagos State Public Service.”

He noted that the theme of this year’s celebration was apt and projecting into the future ahead.

Ambode said: “Indeed, the labour movement in Nigeria has come a long way and yet it remains on the right path, focusing on the values that are of utmost importance to the society and the economy.”

“This theme is in line with the Federal Government’s focus on job creation, promoting entrepreneurship and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.”

“Jobs are important because they create further wealth and provide the purchasing power that enables the producers of wealth to continue to produce wealth and value.

“Dignity for workers is essential because it rewards those who diligently and laboriously apply themselves to the everyday work of creating value and earning a living with respect and social recognition.”

“Finally, social justice is the only recipe for true peace and harmony in any society.”

Ambode, however, urged all stakeholders to see the occasion as a time to rededicate to job creation, stable work place, equality of all workers, dignity in labour and social justice.

He added that the society must begin to honour, respect, and reward labour and not wealth.

In his remarks, Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Lagos State Chapter, Francis Ogunremi, commended Ambode for his commitment to workers welfare in the last four years.

He said this was especially so in areas of prompt payment of salary, allowances and timely remittance of workers’ pensions.

Ogunremi also lauded the various initiatives of the governor in key sectors which include massive road projects, solving traffic challenges, launching of Traffic Information System, repositioning of State Emergency Agency, scaling up security architecture of the state, among others.

Also speaking, Lagos State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Mrs Agnes Sessi, commended the governor for his excellent performance, saying the efforts made so far by him remained a challenge for other states to strive hard to achieve.

She, however, urged the Federal Government to completely drop the idea of increasing the Value Added Tax as a means of funding the 2019 budget.

Angry pensioners in Abia on Wednesday staged a protest at the venue of this year’s Workers Day celebration over the non-payment of 28 years arrears of their pensions.

News Agency of Nigeria reports that hardly had Mr Onyii Wamah, the head of service, who represented Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, mounted the dais to take the salute than the pensioners marched from their canopy to the centre stage, ahead of the commencement of the march past.

The protesters, who were clad in all-black attires, bearing old walking sticks and placards, stood still in front of Wamah, who later came down from the dias.

The protesting senior citizens created more scene when some of them sat on bare floor, attracting more sympathy from the crowd as journalists and other people scrambled to catch a better picture of the drama with cameras and cellphones.

NAN reports that inscriptions on some of the placards read: “Stop this mercy killing and gross tyranny, pay pension, gratuity, “and “Pension payment is now a taboo in Abia state,” among others.

The protesters stayed put for about 15 minutes, during which the programme, especially the match past, was disrupted, before they were later persuaded to relocate to their canopy.

Mr Chukwuma Udensi, chairman of the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, said that the protest was intended to draw public attention to the plight of pensioners in Abia.

Udensi said: “It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected. We have invested so much in the present administration for the past four years, so we expect him to act fast.”

“We are being owed 19 months now, added to the nine months owed us by the past administration, which will amount to 28 months.”

“We are calling on Abia government to pay pensioners of Abia, because most of us have died due to unpaid retirement benefits. ”

Mr Julius Ikpe, the state public relations officer of NUP, said that past administrations staggered the payments of retirement benefits, where some sub-treasuries were paid, while others were left out.

He said: “Then some pensioners were owed six months and others ten months. In the present administration from November 2017 till date, no pensioner has received any payment. During a meeting between the state government and pensioners, the governor promised to pay three months in every two months in order to clear the backlog of pension and gratuities. We are yet to see the implementation of this resolve by the state government to alleviate our plight.”

In his speech, Mr Uchenna Obigwe, the state NLC chairman, expressed dismay over the  steadily increasing salary arrears and unpaid retirement benefits in Abia.

Obigwe said that the development indicated that the state government and its financial managers should evolve proactive measures to tackle the problem.

He said: “This situation is worrisome, particularly when the pensioners are not getting their monthly pensions regularly. Congress still repeats her plea for the sum of N150 million for gratuities monthly.”

In his address, Mr Sunny Onwuma, Abia TUC chairman, said that delayed salary payment had made most civil servants to fail in their family responsibilities.

Onwuma said that most Abia civil servants were afraid to retire, adding that those due for retirement either amended their service records or applied for extension “for fear of the unknown.”

He therefore called on Abia government to urgently evolve a workable solution to the challenge of unpaid salaries, pension arrears and gratuities.

Responding, the governor said that he had taken note of the complaints and needs of the workers and pensioners, adding that urgent steps would be taken to address them.

Ikpeazu commended Abia workers for their resilience and support and expressed the willingness of the government to pay the N30,000 minimum wage.

He said: “We await a circular from the Federal Government concerning the minimum wage and I assure you that we will not reduce the amount but will ensure that we pay N30,000.”

The Oyo State NLC chapter, has also demanded that the arrears of the N30,000 minimum wage be paid to workers in the state.

The NLC Chairman in the state, Mr Bayo Titi-Sodo, made the demand on Wednesday in Ibadan during the 2019 May Day celebration.

Titi-Sodi also called on all employers of labour to commence the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage on April 18, the day the new wage was signed into law by President Buhari.

He said that the employers should pronounced April 18 as the effective date the new wage, adding that, “As it stands now, all employers of labour are owing workers arrears of 13 days and we are demanding that the arrears be paid.”

“We also called on the government at all levels to ensure that the new wage is paid across board.”

“We assure the government of the workers’ dedication to duty and hope the government will listen to our demand and prioritise the workers’ welfare.”

In his part, Mr Olusegun Abatan, Secretary, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Oyo State, called on government to carry along the pensioners in the state on the N30,000 new minimum wage.

Abatan said that the Nigeria law stipulated that whenever the salaries and wages of workers were increased, that of the pensioners should also be increased.

Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State said the representatives of the labour union and government met recently on the issue of the N30,000 new minimum wage.

Ajimobi who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Mr Moses Adeyemo, said his government was committed to the payment of the new wage.

He said the government would do the needful as soon as all documentation and processes for the takeoff of the new minimum wage were completed.

Governor Mohammed Bindow of Adamawa on Wednesday announced that the state government would implement the N30,000 minimum wage which had become law in the country.

Bindow made the declaration at the 2019 Worker’s Day celebration in Yola. He said that implementing the new wage was a demonstration of his commitment to improving the welfare of workers in the state.

He recalled that during electioneering in February, he promised workers in the state that he would implement any new minimum wage approval by the Federal Government.

The governor maintained that workers welfare remained his priority.

He reminded the people that on assumption of office, he inherited back log of salaries to workers, but stated that “now the government is not owing any civil servant in the state”.

He debunked rumours that he borrowed funds to execute capital projects, explaining that he only borrowed to augment the shortfall in allocation to the state from the Federation Account to pay the inherited salary arrears.

Bindow challenged the rumour mongers to verify from Zenith Bank, where the state operated an account, the real position on the issue.

He decried the behaviour of mischief makers, saying that he judiciously utilised available resources to execute projects.

He urged the incoming administration to continue with the provision of infrastructure, adding that the 370 roads constructed by his administration were visible and impactful.

Earlier, Mr Emmanuel Fashe, newly-elected NLC chairman, commended the governor for being workers-friendly and for being up to date in payment of salaries to workers.

The Organised Labour in Kogi on Wednesday said that workers would determine the next governor of the state come November 2.

The NLC Chairman, Mr Onu Edoka, stated this at the 2019 Workers’ Day (May Day) celebration at Confluence Stadium, Lokoja.

According to him, if only the Independent National Electoral Commission would make their votes count, workers would decide the next governor of the state on November 2.

Edoka said: “Workers have the power to determine the next governor of the state and would prove it in the state governorship election slated for November 2, if only the Independent National Electoral Commission would make our votes count.”

He, therefore, urged Governor Yahaya Bello to clear up the arrears of salaries owed workers in the state within the shortest possible time.

He said: “If you pay our salaries, leave bonuses and implement our promotions, we assure you that we shall stand by you.”

Edoka maintained his stance that the state government owed its workers between seven and 30 months salaries, urging the government to stop propaganda and face the reality to ascertain the actual indebtedness of the state to its workers.

The labour leader, however, advised government to clear up the arrears of salary and implement the new National Minimum Wage, adding that government should do everything possible to prevent workers from taking to the street.

Edoka also decried the position of pensioners in the state and appealed to the state government to look into their plight and save them from the precarious situations.

He noted that some of them, whose names were removed from the payroll never found their way back while lucky few whose names came back lost many months.

The labour chairman urged government to embark on massive recruitment of staff into the state civil service, saying there were too few junior level workers, more so that retired public officers were being brought in to occupy positions.

He said: “It will be very dangerous for the state government to continue this way where retired people are made to occupy positions meant for serving civil servants.”

He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to release N30.8 billion, being the balance of the bail out to Kogi, saying that outside of the N50.8 billion former Gov. Idris Wada applied for, N20 billion was released to Governor Bello.

Edoka said Bello paid four months arrears with the release and urged President Buhari to release the balance of N30.8 billion for government to settle more arrears.

In his response, Governor Bello said that the state government would not pretend there were no unresolved issues, but utmost on his agenda presently was how to finally settle unpaid salaries to genuine workers.

Bello, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Folashade Ayoade-Arike, however, contended that the state government owed its workers only five months salary.

He maintained that the last salary paid was that of November, 2018.

He said that genuine workers had earlier been cleared, while those in other categories and possibly being owed were those cleared later by the screening committee, adding that it all depended on when they were cleared.

On the N30,000 new National Minimum Wage, the governor said that government would meet with labour leaders and decide on a workable modalities to adopt for its implementation.

He noted that payment of teachers’ salaries was now on first line charge.

“We are going to key into the new National Minimum Wage. Leadership of the Organised Labour in the state have been consistent in partnering with us and we will always be straight forward with them,” he said.

Photo: NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba

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