THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have expressed concern on the anti-labour posture of the Rivers State government under Governor Nyesom Wike.

The two labour centres in Nigeria, in a letter obtained by National Record on Monday and addressed to Governor Wike, entitled: “Re: Complaint on Recent Anti-Union Posture of the Rivers State Government Culminating in the Sealing of the NLC Rivers State Office by Agents of the Rivers State Government over the New National Minimum Wage Implementation,” stated that the industrial situation in Rivers State has degenerated contrary to an understanding reached between the governor and the centres at a meeting on 8th February 2020.

Comrade Wabba, NLC President
Comrade Olaleye, TUC President

Describing the situation as “clearly a betrayal of the understanding we had at our last meeting,” the NLC and TUC said the meeting they had with him “was aimed at resolving a number of industrial and labour related issues in the state” and that the governor had “expressed commitment to do right…and to ensure that all outstanding industrial issues were resolved.”

The Issues

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The letter dated 10th August, 2020 and signed by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC and Comrade Quadi Olaleye, TUC President, outlined the persisting sore points in industrial relations in Rivers State to include the failure of the government to conclude and sign an agreement with the organized labour as required on the implementation of the new national minimum wage; the non-implementation of the annual salary increment by the government under the leadership Governor Wike since he assumed office in 2015 and the non-implementation of promotions by his leadership since 2015.

Other outstanding issues that have been the source of conflict between organised labour and the government the state include the non-payment of outstanding salary arrears for teachers comprising February and March 2016 salaries which were unpaid due to the biometric test ordered by the government; the non-payment of health workers in October 2017 owing to their participation in the health workers national strike; non-payment of gratuity and pensions to pensioners since 2015, and failure to clear the arrears of pension and gratuity which has made life a nightmare for senior citizens many of whom as a result.

Other issues are the withholding of statutory check off deductions due to unions and the two labour centres; the non-inclusion of tertiary institutions and others in the new national minimum wage scheme adopted by the Rivers State government; and the sealing up and vandalisation of the secretariat of the Rivers State Council of the NLC by agents of the River State Government.

“Your Excellency, the deplorable industrial situation in Rivers State is worsened by reports of witch-hunt of trade union leaders in the State. Already, the State Chairperson of JUSUN has been arrested and is being prosecuted on trumped up criminal charges. This is a new low in industrial relations in Rivers State and a sad commentary on the state of workers’ rights in Rivers State,” the NLC and TUC pointed out.

Labour’s Demands

The NLC and TUC, in order to avoid “further deterioration of the industrial situation in the state, demanded, among other things, that the government should conclude and sign a negotiated agreement with the organized labour on consequential salary adjustment based on the new national minimum wage; the implementation of annual salary increment by the state government; the implementation of arrears of promotions by the state government from 2015 to date; the payment of outstanding salary arrears for teachers comprising February and March 2016 salaries which were unpaid due to the biometric test ordered by the state government; and the payment of the withheld salaries to health workers for October 2017 due to their participation in the National JOHESU strike.

Other demands include the release of all withheld statutory check off dues to unions in the state, which NLC and TUC argue, is a violation of Section 17 of the Trade Union Act; the payment of gratuity and pensions to pensioners suspended since 2015 “in order to save more pensioners from unnecessary suffering and the cold hands of miserable deaths;” the inclusion of tertiary institutions and others in the new national minimum wage scheme adopted by the state government; and the unsealing and rehabilitation of the secretariat of the Rivers State Council of NLC.

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