Pains, gains of workers in 2012

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By VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG

By this time last year, precisely 3rd January, the country was literally on fire over the January 1, hike in the pump price to N141 per litre, from N65.

In Lagos and other major parts of the country, civil society groups especially, the pro-labour groups, under the umbrella of the Joint Action Front, JAF, had galvanized angry Nigerians for a massive anti-fuel hike protest calling for a total reversal.

The January 3rd protest was a rehearsal for what followed six days later when the two labour centers, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, alongside their allies in the civil society groups declared an indefinite strike and mass protest on Monday, January 9, to force the government to revert the price to pre-January 1.
The strike which lasted for about 9 days had a very and long lasting effect on the nation’s socio-economic and political environment.

It was called off by organized labour after President Goodluck Jonathan, during a national broadcast, reduced the price to N97 per litre.

File photo: Nigerian workers during a rally

File photo: Nigerian workers during a rally

It was argued in some quarters that if the strike did not end when it did, it would have inflicted a serious blow on the stability of the government.

The fuel pump price hike of 2012 more than anything else was very painful to workers because it eroded the little gains of N18,000 minimum wage.

Retrenchment Job losses in 2012 were one of the worst the country has recorded in recent time. No sector was free from one form of retrenchment, sack or whatever name called.

In the banking industry, no fewer than 15000 workers lost their jobs. In fact, only one or two banks did not carry out retrenchment exercise last year.

Similarly, in the Oil and Gas industry, over 10,000 workers including non-pensionable workers were thrown into the job market.

In the construction industry, over 100,000 workers lost their jobs, so also the manufacturing sector where not less than 20,000 workers were sacked.

For the aviation industry, more than 1000 workers were eased out, in the telecommunication industry, not less than 3000 were affected, in the engineering sector over 4500 staff lost their jobs, while in the manufacturing sector, investigation revealed that over 6000 employees lost their employment. The National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, was reported to have sacked not less than 4,029 workers.

Minimum wage

2012 also witnessed strike in many states of the Federation including Plateau over non-implementation of the National Minimum Wage. In fact, at the time of this report, there were threats of strike in the South East and North over non-implementation of the N18.000 minimum wage

Strikes
There were also avalanche of strikes in the health sector, oil and gas industry, local government, state government, educational sector among others over one form of disagreement or the other.

Oshiomhole, Mimiko re-elected
In 2012, two labour backed governors, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, the immediate past President of NLC, was overwhelmingly re-elected as governor of Edo State, while Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, of the Labour party, also got re-elected.

Labour marks 100 years
It was a centenary celebration for organized labour in 2012 as it clocked 100 years of modern trade unionism.
It will be recalled that the first registered trade union in Nigeria, the Nigeria Civil Service Union, was formed in 1912.

PHCN, govt face-off resolved
After prolonged negotiations and disagreements, the Federal Government and organized labour in the power industry; National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies, SSAEAC, in  2012 reached agreement over some critical labour issues, paving way for full privatization of assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN.

Lakemfa elected OATUU Secretary General

2012 was also very significant for workers in Nigeria as one of them, in the person of Comrade Owei Lakemfa, was elected Secretary General of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.

Lakemfa, a trade unionist, journalist, Labour historian and human rights activist succeeds the founding president of the NLC,  Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu.

The new Secretary General of OATUU, a former scribe of NLC was on Friday December 7, 2012 in Algiers, Algeria, elected by 43 African countries at the 10th OATUU.

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