Organised Labour in Nigeria said it is going to bring every economic activity in Rivers State to a halt if the State government refuses to address its concerns on the welfare of workers in the State.
Addressing the media in Abuja, the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC and the Trade Union Congress TUC, the two umbrella labour centres in the Country, accused the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike of high handedness and persecution of workers and labour leaders in the State insisting that this must stop.
Some of the grievances according to Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, include the sealing of the NLC secretariat in the State build and commissioned by the State government recently.
Others are withholding of salaries, promotion, payment of arrears of owed pension and gratuity and the remittance of check-off dues to unions among others.
Ayuba Wabba during the briefing said that Nigerian workers under the aegis of the NLC/TUC as well as their civil society allies will embark on a peaceful protest in Portharcourt, the Rivers State Capital on the 8th of September 2020 to draw attention to the plight of workers in that State.
He threatened that the refusal of the government to meet their demands after the peaceful protest will see to the grounding of socio-economic activities in the State.
“Fellow Nigerians, if after next week’s protest, the state government continues to hold labour in contempt and fails to redress our concerns, we will be left with no other option than to ground every socio-economic activity in the state until the Rivers State Governor does the needful.
“We will continue to demand that the rights of our workers in the workplace, their safety and the sanctity of their lives must be respected always both by government and private sector employers. We will never shirk from this sacred mandate”, he said.
The news conference titled: “Nigerian workers reject and protest the use of strong-arm tactics and deployment of violence against workers by the Rivers State Government led by Governor Nyesom Wike’’.
In Wabba’s own words: “This wicked act has become the living nightmare of senior citizens who are being punished for serving the state. These pensioners are dying in droves as a result of neglect.
“The Rivers State government owes some workers in the state up to seven months salaries. The February and March 2016 salaries of teachers in the State were not paid due to the biometric test ordered by the State government”.
Wabba said that the health workers in Rivers were denied their October 2017 salary due to their participation in the National Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) strike.
He also said that the State government had refused to negotiate with workers’ organisations on salary adjustments consequent on the New National Minimum wage.
The NLC President alleged that since the enactment of the new National Minimum Wage of N30,000, there had been no collective bargaining agreement and enabling circular for the implementation of the new national minimum wage in Rivers.
Wabba said that the Rivers government had also refused to conclude negotiations on consequential salary adjustments with workers’ in the state and also excluded all the tertiary institutions from benefitting from any consequential salary adjustment.
Wabba also alleged that the Rivers government deployed hired thugs to attack workers both individually and as a group.
“The attack of trade union leaders and violent disruption of the Rivers State Executive Council meeting on Aug. 27, was only an icing on the cake of Governor Nyesom Wike of River State malfeasance,” he said.
Re-emphasising the position of the NLC President, President TUC, Quadri Olaleye, said that labour had been pushed to the wall by the Rivers State government and had no choice but to embark on the peaceful protest.
However, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information Mr Paulinus Nsirim, said that the matter was already in court.
“Everything that has to do with the NLC in the State is already a matter in court.
“There is an interim injunction against the NLC in Rivers State. In fact, joined as co-defendants in the case are the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, the NLC President and other officers of the union here in Rivers State.
“The interim injunction is published in today’s Vanguard page 24 to 30 and today’s Sun Newspaper from page 14 to 20,” the Commissioner said.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba has however maintained that labour in Nigeria and, “all over the world through our international network will continue to hold the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike to account and bring him to justice, even after the expiration of his current office, should any slightest harm come to any worker during our protest,” he added.