NIGERIA Labour Congress (NLC) has drawn the attention of the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, to the pitiable conditions under which Imo State workers are operating, cautioning that if the ongoing inhuman treatment of workers is not stopped, the Congress would be forced to consider very serious industrial actions.
The NLC, in a letter to Governor Uzodimma, entitled: “Labour Issues For Your Urgent Attention,” and signed by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, its President, described the condition under which public workers are operating in Imo State as “unfair, inclement and very harsh,” adding that it is “very dehumanizing.”
The NLC outlined these conditions to include staggered payment of salaries leaving unpaid less than 70% of public and civil servants since March 2020; incidences of salary slashes for those who are paid salaries, for example, lawyers in the Ministry of Justice were paid only 25% of their salaries for April, May and June, with no reason given for the shortfall; and the indefinite suspension of negotiation between workers’ and the state government on salaries adjustment as a result of the new national minimum wage.
Other inhuman treatment of workers by the state government include the non-payment of pensioners for over three months, the non-remittance of check-off deductions since February 2020; and the stoppage of deduction of check-off dues by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
According to Comrade Wabba, the NLC is particularly worried as what is going on in the state is akin to slave labour.
“Your Excellency, we are particularly worried about the prolonged salary indebtedness to Imo State workers and also arrears of salaries slashes. A worker certainly deserves his or her wages. Even the scriptures warn that workers should not be allowed to go to bed without their due wages. There is no gainsaying the fact that what is going on right now in Imo State is akin to modern slave labour.
“It is really unfortunate that even trade unions and other workers’ representative organizations are not spared the current hostile industrial relations climate in Imo State. We understand that statutory check-off dues deductions from workers in Imo State are not remitted to the trade unions and to the national labour centres as our labour laws demand. In fact, Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Imo State have for some time now stopped the deduction of check-off dues. These anti-labour behaviours are against our laws as a country. Section 5(3) of Nigeria’s Labour Act clearly states inter alia: “the employer shall make deductions from the wages of all workers eligible to be members of the union for the purpose of paying contributions to the trade union so recognized…,” Wabba argued.
The NLC therefore demanded for the immediate payment of salaries arrears owed Imo workers especially those owed since March 2020; the full release of slashed salary arrears withheld by the Imo State government for about three months; the reactivation of the suspended negotiation between workers’ trade unions and the state government on salaries adjustment consequent on the new national minimum wage; the immediate payment of pension arrears; and the immediate remittance of check-off dues deductions from workers’ salaries withheld since February 2020 and the reversal of the directives to and by the MDAs to stop check-off dues deduction.