By Emmanuel Elebeke
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday urged Nigerians to brace up for the harsh economic realities in the country occasioned by the recent fall in the price of oil at the international market, saying that industrial relationship can only be more cordial, if democracy was nurtured to grow.
The President, represented by the Minister of labour, Sen. Joel Danlamilkenya, spoke while addressing workers during yesterday’s May Day celebrations.
Jonathan pointed out that the present harsh economic realities were so glaring that the workers cannot afford to ignore them in their engagements with government and advised them to be realistic with their demands.
“It is in this circumstance that the theme of this year’s Workers’ Day becomes more germane for positive engagement between government and labour. It is therefore proper to celebrate workers because of the critical role they play in the society. May Day confers us the opportunity to reflect on the inherent reality we are being confronted with due to scarce resources.
“The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC, have a duty to play, charting a way forward for continued development and growth of Nigeria.’’
Jonathan then commended both the NLC and the TUC, for their various contributions in the sustenance of the nation’s development and democracy, describing them as the gateway to the nation development.
“The workers, apart from their immense contributions, have in no small ways, made contributions towards the achievement of democracy through the enhancement of the processes and participation. Over these years, the workers have deepened their voice and government had attended to them. There is a new initiative being championed by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity aimed at broadening industrial and labour harmony and trade unionism. This development will no doubt engender the spirit of patriotism, national consciousness, occasioned by natural justice and reasoning.
“For us, the labour movement is central to national productivity and development, and as such have a critical role to play in chatting a way forward for continued development and productivity and in settling labour disputes.
“I have set a mechanism in place to further deepen government and labour relations. Let us use this opportunity to make a commitment for national development and rebirth. Attainment of national vision will not be possible without the commitment, work and participation of Nigerian workers. It is a joint effort. I look forward to seeing a strong and vibrant federation under the new leadership of labour. I urge them to ensure workers welfare and also, working constructively for the transformation of Nigeria.”
FCT allocates over 300 plots of land to workers – FCT Minister
In his valedictory address, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Sen. Bala Mohammed, said that in keeping with the obligation of the commitment FCT to workers, the authority had in the course of his tenure allocated over 300 plots of land to long service award and deserving officers in the FCT and had gone ahead to institutionalise the award as overall incentive to deserving officers who have served the nation meritoriously.
According to him, the gesture was also in acknowledgment of the commitment of the President Jonathan’s administration for workers welfare under the transformation agenda.
In addition to that, he said several policies had been approved to improve workers welfare and economy in general, noting that the nationwide housing scheme, which had commenced in Lugbe and various part of the country remained the flagship of the present administration’s commitment to workers welfare.
The scheme, he said, was aimed at ensuring adequate housing for workers, not only in the FCT but across the federation.
According to him, the scheme is a collaborative venture between the Federal government, NLC and TUC, and designed for workers to become eventual owners of the houses through their rents.
On job creation, Mohammed said the present administration had in various way opened job creation avenues through incentives such as the SURE-P and various infrastructural projects, which he said had generated employment for teaming youths.
As a worker friendly administration, he stated that his administration had constituted a workers welfare committee charged with the mandate of assuaging the pains and sufferings of workers engaged in hazardous activities.
His words: “Every nation that strives for greatness must give pride and dignity to workers. As we gather here today, I will like to commend the contribution of NLC, TUC in the stability of our nation by steering the leadership of the nation.’’
While promising to leave behind an arrears free administration, he assured that the administration would ensure the opening of alternative corridors like Abuja-Nyanya and Karishi-Apo roads to ease the suffering of residents before the end the current administration.
RATAWOA demands improved welfare
Earlier, the Deputy National President of Radio and Television Workers Association, RATAWOA, Comrade Sunday Olujetro, had lamented the poor salary and welfare package for media workers across the country, describing it as injustice.
Olujetro said RATAWOA was determined to fight for the rights and interest of its members until the injustice being meted to them were addressed.
He wondered why the media workers would be paid so poorly compared to their counterparts in most of the public institutions like CBN, FIRS and NNPC, a trend he said was in the opposite in the 1970s.
“We feel very bad that we are so poorly paid today because we were told that before the Udoji’s report in 1975 that workers in CBN resigned their appointments and joined the media because the media paid higher than the CBN workers but today, the reverse is the case.
“You will see workers in CBN, NNPC, FIRS earning more than our people but we have put our case in place with those in charge of salaries and wages in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Information.
Our salaries can’t take us home, and we can’t do anything with it. A lot of workers are on personal loans; as a result of this situation every pay day is a sad day for workers.
“ The incoming President can’t talk about cutting salaries. We believe he was talking about political office holders not about the workers because right now, what the workers are taking cannot take them home. So, he can’t do that, if he ventures do that, then we will be in separate lanes,” he said.