Labour to Protest in Rivers against Alleged Anti-labour Practices

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have said that they will march the streets of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Monday, September 8, to protest alleged anti-labour policies by the state government.

It said “Nigerian workers under the aegis of NLC and TUC and our civil society allies in the discharge of our constitutional rights will embark on a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on September 8, 2020.”

The unions said the protest is to draw the attention of the world to the infractions on workers and trade union rights in Rivers State.

Addressing a joint press conference in Abuja on Thursday, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, and his TUC counterpart, Quadri Olaleye, said the Rivers State Government had unleashed several anti-labour actions on workers in its employ.

Wabba, who read the position of the two labour unions, said that some of the infractions committed by the Rivers State Government included the act of lawlessness by sealing off the NLC Rivers State council, persecution and prosecution of trade union leaders on trumped up charges.

Other anti-labour actions include, non-payment of gratuity and pensions to pensioners since 2015, and non-payment of promotion arrears since 2015.

Wabba also said that the Rivers State Government has failed to clear the arrears of pension and gratuity indebtedness in the state.

“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,” he said.

The NLC president said the state government is owing some workers in the state up to seven months’ salaries.

According to him, “February and March 2016 salaries of teachers in Rivers State were not paid due to the biometric test ordered by the state government. Health workers in Rivers State were denied their October 2017 salary due to their participation in the national strike by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).

“Refusal to negotiate with workers’ organizations on salary adjustments consequent on the new national minimum wage.

“Since the enactment of the new national minimum wage of N30,000, there has been no collective bargaining agreement and enabling circular for the implementation of the new national minimum wage in Rivers State.”

Wabba said the state government has also refused to conclude negotiations on consequential salary adjustments with workers in Rivers State and has also excluded all the tertiary institutions in Rivers State from benefitting from any consequential salary adjustment.

He further alleged that the Rivers State government deployed hired thugs to attack workers both individually and as a group.

He said: “The attack on trade union leaders and violent disruption of the Rivers State Executive Council meeting on August 27, 2020 was only an icing on the cake of Wike’s malfeasance.”

The NLC president also accused the state government of refusing to remit statutory check-off dues to trade unions.

He said that by refusing to remit the statutory check-off dues to unions and the labour centres, the Rivers State Government is projecting an overt agenda of suffocating trade unions in the state to death in clear violation of Section 17 of Nigeria’s Trade Union Act.

When asked to comment on actions being planned by labour in response to the fresh increase in fuel price, Wabba said: “We have referred the matter to our organs and at the appropriate time, the organs are going to hold a meeting to approve the measures for us to take. For now, NLC has expressed its unhappiness at the action of government. The increase will further add to the hardships already being faced by Nigerians.”