Labour decries worsening conditions of Nigerian workers

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threatens industrial unrest

Stories By Victor Ahiuma-Young

LEADERS of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, few days ago met in Lagos to review the socio-economic and political situations in the country as they affect the Nigerian workers and masses, and concluded that workers an indeed the Nigerian masses have been abused, denied, deprived, humiliated, persecuted, harassed and abandoned.

In a 23 -point communique, leaders of the group, lamented that the saddest aspect the whole situation is that employers are now colluding with the Army and other security agencies, setting bases at the factories for the purposes of intimidating and harassing workers in order to deny them their rights and warned that it would no longer be tolerated.

Briefing on the communique, President of ULC, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said the body is “worried that Nigerian workers and masses have become increasingly abandoned to their fate by an unconscionable ruling elite occupied with the battle for filthy lucre and the pursuit of crass political power which they intend to use to further the exploitation and humiliation of Nigerian people. Our workplaces have truly become havens for wicked and malicious employers who seems to be having a field day acting with impunity over the rights of workers under their employ and reducing shop floors to places of fear and trepidation. Nigerian workers have not had it this bad in a very long time as everywhere you turn; it is one harrowing tale of exploitation, abuse or another.

“Governance has been jettisoned and replaced with crass and mindless sharing of national resources accruing to our coffers not out of constructive policies and programmes but rents and loyalties from mineral deposits. What is churned out as policy constantly at various levels are frameworks that emasculates the citizenry further making them more accessible to exploitation by Capital and its agents both in Government and in Private businesses.

“The nation’s leadership has become so impervious to the sanctity of lives of the citizenry to an extent that our people are not only mowed down in our streets and villages by insurgents, kidnappers and armed robbers but those in faraway South Africa have also become easy prey to the security agencies of that country. Nigerian lives are lost in the waters of the Mediterranean more than that of any other nation and this carnage if nothing is done quickly will surpass the deaths of Nigerians during the various voyages to the West through the inhuman transatlantic slave trade.”

According to him: “We observe with deep angst that despite collecting huge bail-out funds from the federal Government and the Paris club debt refund, many state Governors have refused to pay workers’ salaries. We view this as fraudulent. You cannot use the name of Nigerian workers to collect money and then divert it to other uses that is obtaining by tricks and is still punishable under code 419 of the law of the federation.”

While welcoming President back Muhammad Buhari back from medical leave, ULC said: “We welcome back with rejoicing to the country our nation’s President – General M. Buhari from his 103 days sojourn on medical grounds in the UK! We thank God for the apparent restoration of his health and strength to fulfil his mission and promises to Nigerians which have all stood in abeyance since his protracted illness.

However, ULC urges our leaders to learn from this episode the immediate need for us as a nation to establish standard medical facilities in the country to take care of not only the ruling elite but to also provide access to medicare for the masses and workers. It is truly a tragedy and a shame that a nation that prides itself as the giant of Africa should find itself in this situation which poses not only economic difficulties for us but also great security risk for us as a nation.

Our leaders must understand that their lives are not more important than that of ordinary Nigerians and indeed that of Nigerian workers. All lives must be held equal and sacred according to the will of God. Hospitals backed by sound health policies should be established that would guarantee greater access to health services for the citizenry.”

The group demanded among others, that “the employers who are now colluding with the Army and other security agencies, setting up garrisons in our factories for the purposes of intimidating and harassing workers in order to deny them their rights be called to order by the relevant agencies of Government. The Army and the Police should immediately withdraw their garrisons in the different workplaces where they are currently stationed.

Petroleum  refineries

“Immediate payment of all the arrears of salaries owed Nigerian workers at all levels of Government without exception. The    federal Government should    quickly honour its 2009 agreement with University Lecturers on the umbrella of ASUU so that our universities will re-open.

“The roads leading to all the Petroleum refineries and Depots nation-wide be repaired by the Government to avoid the present carnage of lives, wastage of products and properties on these roads. The proposed Bill at the National Assembly seeking to control free speech is couched under the guise of Bill against hate speech but has the real intention of protecting the ruling elite from being held accountable by the citizenry. We therefore demand the discontinuance of that obnoxious Bill.”

Threatening that    if their  demands are    not met within two weeks, and that they would embark on Industrial actions that would force Government to correct itself and respect the interests of workers and the citizenry.

, the leaders of ULC added “the ULC once again pledges its commitment and loyalty to Nigeria, its workers and peoples. Our determination remains to make ourselves available at all times towards building a nation that would enthrone equity and justice for her people which will be anchored on a vibrant, strong and virile labour movement. “

 

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