Rivers obtains injunction barring NLC from embarking on strike

The Rivers State Government has obtained a court injunction barring the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, from embarking on strike.

Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress had on Thursday threatened to down tools in Rivers State over the alleged maltreatment of its members in the state.

The unions are accusing the Rivers State government of using hired thugs to harass workers. They plan to stage a protest on the 8 of September.

But the state government through the attorney general in an ex parte motion filed at the National Industrial Court Port Harcourt on August 28, 2020, and granted on 1st September, barred the unions from embarking on any industrial action.

Not the first time

Rivers State Government on March 22, 2020, obtained an ex-parte order barring three labour unions from embarking on strike in the state.

Labour unions had scheduled an indefinite strike over the failure of the Rivers State Government to negotiate the new minimum wage.

This follows the expiration of the seven-day ultimatum issued to the state government which started on Monday 16th March 2020.

The order with suit no: NICN/PHC/41/2020 obtained from the National Industrial Court, Port Harcourt under Justice M Bashir sought an interim injunction barring labour from embarking on their proposed strike.

The order also bars labour from interfering with the terms of service of the state civil service.

The ultimatum by labour to embark on an indefinite strike follows an extensive deliberation of both the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and the Joint Public Service Negotiating Councils in Port Harcourt.

Organized labour had in a statement signed by the state secretaries of NLC, Comrade Matthew Olabe, that of TUC, Comrade Prince Ndukwe and their Joint public service negotiating council 1,2 and 3, Comrade Opuwari Ogbada, expressed displeasure on the non-seriousness of the state government to resolve the issues in contention despite the window of opportunities offered by the state leadership after the intervention of the national leadership.

It said the contending issues include the reconvening of the negotiating team on the implementation of the new national minimum wage, non- implementation of promotion and annual incremental benefits since the inception of the present administration in 2015, payment of outstanding salary arrears to some workers for February and March 2016 and October 2017.

Other issues are the nonpayment of pension and gratuity to pensioners, disappearance of the one hundred million Naira workers revolving housing/car loan scheme and the immediate removal of the retired head of service and other retired heads of ministries, departments and agencies.

The organized labour said the failure of the state government to demonstrate seriousness in addressing the above issues at the expiration of the seven days ultimatum with effect from Monday 16th March 2020, workers will have no option than to embark on an indefinite strike action without further notice from midnight of Monday 23rd March 2020.

Dispute continued

The State NLC had in August accused Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike of intimidation after their officials were prevented from holding its meeting at its temporary office in Rumuagholu, Obio/Akpor Local government Area.

Beatrice Itubo who confirmed the development said some men walked into their office claiming to be acting on orders from above and warned them against holding their meeting at the venue after which it was locked up.

However, the NLC members proceeded to an undisclosed venue to hold their meeting which was aimed at uniting with the members of the United Labour Congress who has agreed to close ranks with the NLC.

Itubo wondered why the labour leaders would be prevented from holding their meeting at their office.

The Labour leader also said the government of the day should be held responsible if anything happens to any labour leader in Rivers State.

“As we were gathering to hold our meeting two men came to us. One of them introduced himself as the Councilor representing Ward 7 in Obio-Akpor, that they have a directive not to allow us hold our meeting in our office. They said that was the instruction they got from above.

“We were still trying to talk with them and before we knew it some more young boys arrived the place and started banging our vehicles and even pushed some of our workers saying we cannot hold our meeting.

“I don’t know when our state drifted to the level where people can no longer meet and discuss their problems.

“For God’s sake are we not supposed to meet as Labour members. They have locked the Secretariat that they said they built for us and this one that is our own they will still not allow us to meet.

“We don’t know why they don’t want Labour to meet. This is not the only Labour that has problems with its state government. There are several states with issues but they are lobbying.

“I want to put it on record that should anything happen to any Labour leader in Rivers State at this given time, the Governor of the state should be called to answer for it because he has resorted to unleashing his arsenals to haunt us. He has begun to bring his bad boys to attack us and we are aware.

“The Federal government should be aware, the international community should be aware that if anything should happen to any Labour leader in Rivers State, the Governor should be held”.

Recall that NLC secretariat located at the D-Line area of Port Harcourt was sealed in February over minimum wage face-off with the Rivers State Government.

Rivers State Government sealed the NLC secretariat due to demands by labour to immediately reconvene the minimum wage committee to address the issue of the minimum wage.

Itubo had insisted that Rivers State Government employees were yet to be paid the agreed minimum wage.

Rivers NLC had lamented the discrepancies in the payment of the new minimum wage by Wike’s administration.

They also accused the government of rushing to implement the new minimum wage without a signed agreement between the state government and labour.

The sealed state secretariat of NLC in Port Harcourt was donated by Wike’s administration, to replace the dilapidated structure.

Itubo had asked workers in the state to be on the alert and await further directive on the minimum wage, declaring that indifference of the Wike’s administration would no longer be tolerated.

But Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, the state commissioner for information and communication stated in February that the state’s NLC should be ready to face “dire consequences,” if it made good the threat over minimum wage while accusing the leadership of becoming tools in the hands of unnamed politicians.

Nsirim said that “Rivers State government has commenced the payment of the new minimum wage for employees of the state public service with the consequential salary adjustments as approved by the Federal Government, and will not be deterred by cheap blackmail.

“Governor Wike remains committed to workers’ welfare and will not allow the activities of a few disgruntled elements to dissuade his resolve to serve the people.”