2nd January, 2017
With the formation of a new labour union in Abuja, many labour leaders are of the opinion that the Nigerian workers have lost the battle in their agitation for a new minimum wage to cushion the effects of recession on them.
Top labour leaders argued on Monday that the formation of United Labour Congress (ULC) by 25 industrial unions would be a major setback to realising the demands for a new national minimum wage in the country.
The leaders made the assertion in Abuja on the emergence of a new labour centre.
The new labour centre emerged after a two-year internal crisis that split the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) into two opposing factions.
It would be recalled that no fewer than 25 industrial unions had elected Mr Joe Ajaero as President of the new labour centre called United Labour Congress (ULC).
Some leaders in the labour movement, however, expressed mixed views in achieving the new minimum wage in the present crcumstances.
Mr Sunday Alhassan, President, Nigeria Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE), described the new labour centre as a “very sad story’’.
Alhassan said the formation of the new labour centre could be a major setback to achieving the agitation for the proposed national minimum wage for workers in the country.
“Government might take advantage of this, by telling them that their house is not united or this or that is not recognised.
“This means that the process of achieving the new minimum wage will keep dragging just because of their misgiving and their anger towards what happened in 2015.
“If you look at it, five to six years have come and gone since the last National Minimum Wage Act was reviewed and it is already due for another review.
“Still now we have not been able to come up with anything due to disagreements. So, it is time for us to unite at this point in time for the common good of the movement and the people,” Alhassan said,
He said that with the divided house in the labour movement, government would seize the opportunity to oppress the workers further.
The NUPTE president, however, called for the unity of the movement in order to achieve a single voice for the working people.
“We believe that whatever that has happen after the election, we should have learnt a lot of lessons from there so that we can go forward and not to go backward,” he said.
Also, Mr Bunmi Ogunkolade, Senior Assistant General Secretary, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), told NAN that having two or more labour centres would create delay by government in giving due benefits to workers.
Ogunkolade said this was true in terms of the implementation of the overdue new National Minimum Wage and other benefits for workers.
He said that if there were more than one or two labour centres in the country, rather than strengthen the labour movement it would weaken it.
He also called on the promoters of the ULC to have a rethink as workers and Nigerians would suffer immensely due to the action.
“I want to appeal to our colleagues to do the best they can for the sake of the movement to see how they can forget about this new centre.
“It is going to serve the purpose of the elites and the oppressors. So, I am pleading with Ajearo and others, whatever the misgivings or ill feelings, please allow the issue to be settled.
“It is only with one voice that the labour movement would be strengthened to achieve its purpose.
“We should come together to fight a common goal and not to desire positions and create more labour centres in the country,” he said.
Also, Mr Lateef Oyelekan, President, National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), said that the decision to create another labour centre would affect the way and manner government would handle labour issues.
“If it is because they lost an election and cannot concede to the loss , it is very sad.
“At this point in time ,we do not need a divided house because workers are already oppressed in one way or the other.
“ Their actions will further bring hardship to the Nigerian workers in terms of lack of payment of salaries, new minimum wage overdue, among others.”
Oyelekan called on the promoters of the new movement to reconsider their action as this would affect not only the unions but workers and Nigerians generally.
“How can you, after putting much effort to build a house and you now want to use your own hands to destroy it, without showing concern for those the roof will fall upon.
“Workers need one voice, one movement, to stand by them right now and not a divided house,” Oyelekan added.
However, Mr Amechi Asugwuni, President, National Union of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), told NAN that the formation of the new labour centre was a welcome development.
“There is nothing wrong in having two, three or even four labour centres in the country.
“ They will all be fighting towards achieving one goal for workers and Nigerians, in terms of mounting more pressure on government,’’ he said.