2019 NLC NEW YEAR MESSAGE
OUR COMMITMENT TO WORKER ISSUES AND GOOD GOVERNANCE ARE INVIOLABLE
– Being a text of the Goodwill Message to Nigerians on New Year’s Day, 2019, by Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni, President, Nigeria Labour Congress
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) joins all Nigerians and people of goodwill to celebrate 2019 New Year Day. We salute the contribution and sacrifice of our entire workforce, great men and women.
We use this occasion to reach out to all workers, pensioners and other citizens in Nigeria and elsewhere with the message of love, joy, hope and goodwill.
This day is an opportunity for celebration and stock-taking. Pursuant to this, our reflections on the year 2018 are both positive and negative.
Throughout 2018, the NLC was completely invested in the struggle to protect workers interests, promote democratic values, advocate for the rule of law and defend human cum trade union rights. We sustained our fight against anti-labour practices at the work place and insisted on the observance of the rules of decent work and fair wages.
We kicked against the rising incidence of unemployment, especially, youth unemployment and the danger it portends. We canvassed for the preservation of existing jobs and creation of new sustainable ones through alternative policy options with potential for expanding the economy.
Aside from the regular commemoration of May Day, the year was remarkable and memorable for the observance and celebration of Congress’ 40th anniversary. Many of our affiliates were to follow suit.
One of the major activities in the year was the renewed strengthening of our relationship with our civil society allies through regular collaboration and mutual engagement.
Congress remained vigilant and responsive to national issues as they unfolded and frequently made its position known through press statements, comments, communiques, state of the nation comments, etc which relatively influenced policy and legislation.
Congress, for instance, always condemned prevalent violence in some parts of the country and called on government to bring this to an end.
Congress sustained its robust engagement with the National Assembly, especially on issues of concern to Labour or great national importance.
At the international level, the year remains one of the most remarkable through deepened interactions, engagements, programmes and activities, culminating in the election of the President of the Congress to the headship of ITUC Global.
In spite of these relative successes, the year remains one of the most traumatic for workers especially given the failure of government to enact and implement the new national minimum wage of N30, 000. This is in spite of the unimpeachable tripartite process leading to the agreement by the social partners on the new national minimum wage. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government is yet to transmit to the National Assembly an executive bill for the enactment of N30, 000 as the new national minimum wage.
Government’s dilly-dallying on the issue has strained Government -Labour relations with a potential for a major national strike which could just be days away.
Accordingly, we would use this opportunity to appeal to the Government to do the needful by urgently transmitting the bill on the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly.
We also would like to use this same opportunity to urge workers to fully mobilize for a prolonged national strike and enforce their right.
This strike action becomes the inevitable last option for us and we crave the understanding and support of all Nigerians and businesses.
We would want to assure workers that their labour, patience and diligence will not be in vain and that this leadership remains committed to giving all that it takes to ensure that they get just and fair wages due to them in a decent work environment appropriate to their well-being.
This leadership is similarly committed to ensuring there is social protection for workers.
The new year presents great opportunities for workers, pensioners, civil society allies and their friends and families to put their numbers to good use by voting out not on the basis of tribe or religion but purely policy any candidate who cannot serve their interest.
In the year that is ahead of us, the Nigeria Labour Congress remains unequivocally committed to the following national and workers’ goals:
1. Campaign for Industrialization
We will work assiduously to promote and advocate for the removal of all barriers to industrialization, growth and productivity. We should be able to build a country where we produce what we consume. We cannot continue to export precious jobs away to other countries through successive poor policy choices of government and expect to change our unfortunate status as the poverty capital of the world.
2. Campaign Against Selective Enforcement of “No Work… No Pay” Policy of government
In 2018, government at different levels in Nigeria tried to use the “No Work… No Pay” to hound and victimize workers. This policy actually arises from clear violation of Collective Bargaining Agreement by the same government that seeks to use the policy against workers. The fact is that the obnoxious policy of “No Work… No Pay” is derived from Decree 54 of 1977 which even military regimes that promulgated it refrained from deploying against workers. It is unfortunate that such cruel policy is being used against workers by a democratic government.
There is no place in modern industrial relations for workers to be owed arrears of salaries. A case in hand is the recent shutdown of the government of the United States owing to disagreements between the executive and the legislative arms of government over budget issues. Most workers whose salaries were affected by the budget impasse were asked to proceed on leave until government is able to pay their salaries.
In worker-sensitive climes even our West African neighbours, it is unthinkable that workers would go home in a month without their salaries. We have tolerated this evil culture of prolonged salary indebtedness for a long time and government has taken advantage of our patience to extend the frontiers of this impunity to the policy dump site of “No Work… No Pay”. The Nigeria Labour Congress will continue to resist such unjust, draconian and insensitive policy and insist that workers’ salaries, pension and gratuity must be paid as when due.
In furtherance to this, the Nigeria Labour Congress will intensify the struggle for regular, predictable and appropriate payment of salaries, pension and gratuity. This struggle will continue to be our topmost priority. In 2018 and the years preceding it, we demonstrated our commitment in this regard with rallies in defaulting states. We also demanded the probe of governors of such states. We went further to call on the federal government to make subsequent release of further bail-out funds or Paris Club refund contingent on clear evidence of judicious use (for payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities) of previous releases. We will continue to insist on accountability.
Furthermore, the NLC will continue to promote worker-education and mobilization through Congress education programmes and other union training programmes. These activities would be religiously held with the objective of positive impact on workers. Therefore, we urge government at all levels to consider workers as assets and partners in development rather than liabilities.
3. Consolidation of our Democratic Gains by Insisting on Good Governance and Free, Fair, Credible cum Transparent Elections:
The Nigeria Labour Congress will continue to insist that our elections are clean. Our focus is particularly trained on the 2019 general election. The Nigeria Labour Congress will continue to demand that both the election umpire and political actors play to the rules of the game by shunning violence, election malpractices, vote buying, manipulation of election rules and politics of bitterness.
We will also deepen our campaign for good governance and fight against corruption in the same manner that we sustained the campaign for tax justice and illicit financial flows. We also demand that the recovered loot be invested transparently for the benefit of all Nigerians.
4. We Say No to the Shedding of Innocent Blood
Finally, we say no to the wanton killings under any guise in our country. We particularly condemn the recent pogrom in Zamfara State which has become a recurring decimal in that state. The mind-boggling repeat episodes of gruesome killings clearly show total collapse of governance in Zamfara State. It also shows a dearth of social justice and the reign of abject poverty.
We also unequivocally condemn the recent attacks on communities in Borno State by insurgents. This is a serious setback to the fight against terrorism in our dear country. We wish to sympathize with those who suffered losses in human lives and property. We also share in the pains of thousands of our people who were recently displaced by the wave of Boko Haram attacks in Borno State and indeed other parts of Nigeria.
We wish to remind our political leaders that the security and welfare of the people must be the chief priority of any government’s policy and programmes.
We also want to reiterate our resolve to continue to push for the prioritization of the welfare, security and wellbeing of all Nigerians especially workers of all category.
We commend our armed forces for their effort and supreme sacrifice in curtailing the activities of Boko Haram terrorists and other insurgents operating elsewhere in our country.
Finally, we wish to assure Nigerians, particularly workers, that our resolve and commitment to the noble goals and aspirations of justice, equity, decent wages and accelerated national development remains unshakable and inviolable.
Once again, we wish you all a happy new year.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni