Group Cautions NLC against Occupy Ogun Protest

0

Olaseni Durojaiye

A pro-democracy group, the Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), has criticized the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for calling out the Ogun State workforce on a protest on the eve of a major election.

It described the planned labour protest as “patently political” and a brazen, unabashed tactic to sway the electorate in favour of a political party.

The advocacy group, according to a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Ganiyu Lasisi, described the protest fixed for Tuesday and planned to snowball into full-blown industrial action as “premeditated and designed to arm-twist Governor Ibikunle Amosun into a self-serving political course, especially coming on the heels of alleged nocturnal meetings of union leaders with some politicians.”

According to Lasisi, “The industrial action is not about non payment of salary, as no worker is being owed salary by the Amosun administration. This agitation can only be politically-induced as no reasonable union would call out workers on a strike in order to make a political statement, which is the manifest intent of the current agitation. This goes against the provisions of Trade Dispute Act and Civil Service Rules.”

Lasisi said the Organised Labour, which honoured Governor Ibikunle Amosun at the national level in 2016 with the Excellence Award in Leadership in recognition of his being labour-friendly, should not be seen to recant so soon, noting that Labour should not simultaneously approbate and reprobate.

“At the risk of being dubbed the government mouthpiece, we hasten to say that the current government of Ibikunle Amosun pays above the minimum living wage and we stand to be corrected.

It is the only government in Nigeria that implemented the increase across board and up to the level of local council.

“The current posturing may push the government to rue the decision, which ballooned the monthly wage such that a worker in Ogun State earns more than its counterpart in any part of the federation, and the payment of gratuities to retirees from 2008, three clear years before it was inaugurated.”

Lasisi recalled that whereas the state government, from press report, got N10.6 billion, in one tranche of refund from the Paris Club deductions and could choose to devote 25 per cent (later 50 per cent) of the money to workers as recommended by the Federal Government, it instead devoted the entire sum to the welfare of its serving and retired workforce, making additional sum of N2.4 billion available for the same purpose.”

With regards to the case of Tai Solarin College of Education, the group’s scribe wondered how an administration that coughed up a whopping N2.5 billion to offset the arrears of salaries of academic members of OOU it inherited from the previous government could be accused of being anti-workers. “The case of TASCE deserves a thorough investigation in order to arrive at a win-win situation for the staff and government,” Lasisi counselled.

On the sanctioned union leaders, “CGG is of the view that since the matter is before a court of law, it is, therefore, sub judice. While it continues to receive its monthly salary, it will amount to gross insensitivity for the workforce, whose number is less than one per cent of the population of Ogun State, to insist that all its demands have to be met when the State whose monthly wage bill is over nine billion naira now receives about half of the amount from the Federation Account.

“The mere fact that Ogun State continues to pay salaries where many states are unable to do so should constitute some food for thought. It is equally instructive that in line with its agreement with the unions, the Amosun government offsets, from time to time, the cooperative deductions as the finances of the state improve. All these facts are in the public domain.”

The group opined further that “Partisan political agitation is dangerous for the Civil Service, hence the time-honoured Neutrality character of the public institution. The union leaders must strive to protect this character because of the consequences of its breach when there is a change of government.”

“We believe the majority of workers in Ogun appreciate the devotion of the government to their welfare, including the refusal of the governor to contemplate salary adjustments, down-sizing or right-sizing during the recent economic recession.

“CGG implores Labour to be wary of the antics of desperate politicians in order not to become a tool in their hands by design or default. The plan to “occupy Ogun” at a time when residents are preparing to go to the polls raises more questions than answers for anyone familiar with the political calculus in Ogun State. Therefore, the protest should be shelved without further ado, as it runs contrary to the political neutrality protocol of the Civil Service.”

While re-stating the socio-economic transformation of Ogun by the Amosun-led administration as its motivation, the Campaign for Good Governance called on the state government to dialogue with the Organised Labour after the 2019 general elections with a view to ironing out any grey areas in order to sustain the industrial harmony in the State.

The NLC should shelve its planned protest and absolve itself of any charge of political interference. This clearly is the path of honour, responsibility, neutrality and general adherence to Civil Service Rules,” the statement concluded.