Labour to Protest in Rivers over Alleged Anti-labour Practices

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The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

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

The labour unions said that the Nigerian workers would be joined by their civil society’s allies on the proposed peaceful protest meant to draw the attention of the world to the infractions on workers’ and trade union’s rights in Rivers State.

The President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, alleged during a joint press conference yesterday that the Rivers State government had unleashed several anti labour actions on its workers.

Wabba, who read the position of the two labour unions, alleged that some of the infractions committed by the state government included act of lawlessness by sealing off the NLC’s secretariat in Rivers State council, witch-hunting, persecution and prosecution of trade union leaders on trumped up charges.

Others allegation the unions brought against the state government included anti-labour actions such as non-payment of gratuity and pensions to pensioners and non-payment of workers’ promotion arrears since 2015.

He also claimed 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 government. These pensioners are dying in droves as a result of neglect,” he alleged.

The NLC’s president said that the state government has owed some workers in the state up to 7-month salaries.

He said: “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 called by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).

“Refusal to negotiate salary adjustment on the new national minimum wage with workers’ organisations.

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

He said: “The attack of 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’s president also accused the Rivers State government of refusing to remit statutory check-off dues to trade unions as a ploy to suffocate trade unionism in Rivers 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 meet to approve the measures for us to take. For now the NLC has expressed its unhappiness at the action of government. The increase will further add to the hardships already being faced by Nigerians.”