Professor Yemi Osinbajo

—Tells NLC to intervene 

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

ABUJA–VICE President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday told the striking four university-based unions to embrace dialogue as a means of resolving the lingering dispute between them and the federal government.

The Vice President also called on the leaderships of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, to help facilitate a resolution of the dispute with the University workers through dialogue.

This is as the organized labour has vowed to vote against political parties and persons that have sponsored, supported and executed anti-labour polices, in  bid to discourage bad governance and incessant policies that engender economic hardship in the country. 

The organised labour also lamented the rising inflation, insecurity and total shut down of federal government owned universities in the country.

Recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational Institutions, NASU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT shut down the public universities over the failure of government to attend to their concerns. 

Speaking as the Special Guest of Honour at the 2022 May Day celebration in Abuja, Prof. Osinbajo, told the striking university workers to always pursue the parth of dialogue in resolving differences.

According to him, “We are not unmindful of the anxieties of our children and their parents who are plagued by thoughts of an uncertain future as they stay home because their universities have been shut by an industrial action. 

“I appeal to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the broader labour community to seek the path of dialogue. Disagreement and debate have always been part of the relationship between labour and the government. 

“Even as we disagree today, we must not do so as mortal adversaries but as members of the same progressive family. We both want the same thing – a country that works for all and offers each citizen a fair deal – even if occasionally we differ on how to achieve this goal. 

“But at all times, we have through dialogue found a path forward. It in this spirit that I call on ASUU to embrace dialogue with the Government and I call on the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to help facilitate a resolution of this dispute through dialogue. I believe that we can find a path forward in good faith. And this is what we will do.”

He said both the government and the workers want the same thing, a country that works for all and offers each citizen a fair deal.

He said even if occasionally there is a disagreement between the government and the workers on how to achieve the set goal, the disagreement should at all times be resolved through dialogue to find a path forward. 

On the welfare of workers, Osinbajo said that regardless of the challenges of low revenue, COVID19 pandemic and others global economic stress, the administration has been steadfast in tackling the issues facing Nigerian workers. 

He said that the president had implemented an increase in the national minimum wage in 2019. 

He noted that the federal government recently increased the retirement age of teachers so that they can spend more years in service educating our children.

The Vice President further stated that government has implemented an upward review of the salaries and wages of the men and women of the Nigeria Police Force as part of our broader commitment to improving the welfare and service conditions of those charged with safeguarding our lives.

Going memory lane on the efforts of workers in the country, the Vice President said Nigerian worker in every real sense laid the foundations of our sovereignty and freedom with their blood and tears. and nurture it till this day with  their sweat and zea

“The struggle for fairness and equity in  relations between the employer and the worker and the campaign for the dignity of the Nigerian worker in the colonial era were closely bound up with the quest for the independence. 

“Some would say that both struggles were two sides of the same coin. For just as the Nigerian worker sought to be accorded equal rights in his own land, the nationalist movement sought to break the yoke of colonialism and transform our people from subjects to citizens. 

“In this epic struggle the Nigerian working class was the army of the nationalist movement. We remember the 1945 General Strike and the Iva Valley Massacre in 1949 in which striking miners seeking their rights were killed by colonial authorities as watershed events in the evolution of our nation. Names such as those of Pa Michael Imoudu, Mallam Aminu Kano, Nduka Eze, F.O. Coker, E.E. Esua and M.A. Bankole among others are seared into the national memory – they belong to iconic figures in the labour movement who played critical roles in our quest for liberation from colonial rule. 

“When we sing our National Anthem and proclaim that the “the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain”, we are invoking the memory of legions of patriotic agitators among whom were leading lights of the labour movement. 

” Therefore the Nigerian worker in every real sense laid the foundations of our sovereignty and freedom with their blood and tears. and nurture it till this day with  their sweat and zeal.”

In his May Day address to workers, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige pleaded with Nigerian workers to exercise some restraint in embarking on strike.

Ngige, who is the Conciliator-in-Chief of the Federal Government said both employers and employees are important stakeholders in the economy of any country, hence the need to work harmoniously to build a strong economy.

He said that trade unions must desist from dictating to the government on how to run its business just like the government would refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Trade Unions.

He said, “In the quest for good governance, Trade Unions must desist from dictating to the government on how to run its business just like the government would refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Trade Unions. 

“Experience has shown that in the past there had been occasions of government incursion, but for this Administration, we have tried as much as possible to refrain from this act but sadly some Trade Unions/Associations have found this a very attractive trait to prove to their members that the leadership is tough.”

Speaking on the theme of this year’s celebration, “Labour, Politics and the Quest for Good Governance and Development in Nigeria,” Ngige noted that the rights emanating from employment relationship are reciprocal, pointing out that government in addition to being the “competent authority” in tripartism, is also an employer.

He explained that  Article 2 of the ILO Convention offers workers and employers protection against any acts of interference by each other or each other’s agents or members in their establishment, adding that the principle of reciprocity must be respected.

The Labour and Employment Minister described the theme for this year’s May Day as very apt with  the next general elections around the corner  and  the electoral processes gathering momentum  to usher in “new servants” for the country.

In their address, the organised labour under the auspices of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) deplored the rising inflation rate in the country which they said has hit 15.7 percent this month.

They expressed grave concern that the high inflation may have been largely driven by fuel shortages and it’s effects on costs transportation, commodities and services.

In the joint welcome address by both the TUC president, Quadri Olaleye and NLC president Ayuba Wabba delivered at the celebration, the labour movement also bemoaned the level of insecurity and continued shut down of the nation’s public owned universities due to the dispute with the lecturers and other workers.

Labour identified poor governance as the major causes of unemployment, poverty and insecurity in Nigeria which has worsened in recent times. 

On the lingering ASUU strike, TUC and NLC said that they have already issued an ultimatum to government to resolve the national embarrassment, adding if at the end the 21-day ultimatum, nothing positive happened, the federal government will have to contend with the entire Nigerian workers.

They warned that the labour movement is fully mobilised to resist what they described as social apartheid that keeps the children of the poor at home while the children of the the rich are in private schools and abroad studying.

In the same vein, organised labour expressed concern over an upsurge in industrial crises in the country’s health sector.

The labour movement accused government of refusing the adjust the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) for health workers. 

It described as tragic and unacceptable the neglect of the health sector and it’s personnel which has resulted in mass exodus of doctors and nurses to seek greeners pastures abroad.

Speaking on the rising insecurity in the country, organised said that it is disheartening that despite the funds invested in national security especially in the fight against terrorism, it appears the terrorists are getting bolder by the day.

They said that workers will unanimously vote against political parties and persons that have sponsored, supported and executed anti-labour polices, in  bid to discourage bad governance and incessant policies that engender economic hardship in the country. 

They also vowed that about 16 million block votes of workers, pensioners and other circles of influence in the country, will go to the political party that has the welfare and interests of workers and the masses at heart.

Reiterating their stand, the two labour centres also vowed to ensure Nigerians no longer suffer social injustices as a result of the action or inaction of governments, by proceeding to mobilise the citizenry against any poor performing government without waiting for elections to vote them out. 

The joint Workers’ Day speech also listed the core labour issues confronting Nigerian workers and the masses to include; the failure of some state governments to implement the national minimum wage especially Abia, Taraba, Cross River and Zamfara states.

Other core issues also listed were: abuse and humiliation meted out at pensioners; decent work deficits; violation of human, workers and trade union rights; and the consistent and unabating industrial crisis in the university system involving academic and non academic staff unions.

Labour said: “It must be our collective endeavour to put the Workers’ Charter of Demands at the front burner of 2023 politics. We can make this happen by mobilizing every Nigeria worker and pensioner to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) ready. We must be ready to engage political parties especially working class friendly parties and progressive political interests across the country to ensure that a significant number of candidates who would be for elective positions in 2023 subscribe to the provisions of our Charter.

“Beyond engaging the politics of 2023 general elections, Nigerian workers just accept partisan politics as a fundamental way of life for the protection, survival and flourishing of the working class. 

“We will no longer wait for elections to mobilize Nigerians to take charge of the destiny  of the destiny of their country. We will be more proactive and pronounced in the daily political undertakings of our country. We will mobilize the Nigerian people to monitor and engage the performance of those we elect into political offices. 

“We will match the performance metrics of the political class against Workers’ Charter of Demands. Their readings on our scale will determine the swing of the pendulum of workers’balot.”

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.