OGUN SUSPENDED STRIKE: AMOSUN GOVERNMENT REMAINS UNYIELDING
OGUN SUSPENDED STRIKE: AMOSUN GOVERNMENT REMAINS UNYIELDING
ONLY STRUGGLE CAN FORCE GOVERNMENT TO MEET THE WORKERS’ DEMANDS
By Eko John Nicholas
Following appeals by the Governor Ibikunle Amosun led APC government and paramount traditional rulers in Ogun State, the labour leaders suspended a week-long workers’ strike in the state. The suspension was to give room for the amicable settlement of the workers’ demands by the government. Unyielding
To this end, government invited the leaderships of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) plus their affiliates for a meeting to resolve the impasse with workers. The gathering, which had in attendance the governor and his officials, lasted for over four hours without the governor acceding to any of the workers’ demands.
The governor denied signing an agreement with the workers to be allowed time to commence the payment of 7.5% salary increment introduced by former governor Gbenga Daniel and insisted that he never instructed anyone to sign on his behalf. Though the labour leaders provided documentary evidence to that effect, the governor maintained his denial.
On the eight-month salary deductions/balance, the governor claimed the state’s purse was lean and as such could not accommodate workers’ salary deductions/balance. This he said was due to a short-fall from the federal allocations to the state, brought about by low oil prices. The workers drew the attention of the governor to the internally generated revenues amounting to billions of naira daily, which the governor had deliberately omitted, while supplying data to back up his lean-purse claims.
Notwithstanding this, the labour leaders still gave an opportunity for soft landing by proposing that: 1. Government either deferred April salaries in favor of the payment of eight months’ salary deduction or 2. Government pays April salary with three months’ salary deduction. The governor rejected both proposals and insisted there was no money.
The labour leaders had asked the governor to allow the workers to leave the cooperative societies they willingly joined but on whose behalf the government had made deduction for eight months from their salaries without remitting same. The governor vehemently opposed this, and threatened that if even by chance the workers succeeded in lobbying the State House of Assembly to repeal the law setting up the cooperative societies, he would withhold his assent.
On the contributory pension fund, which the successive governments of former governor Gbenga Daniel and Ibikunle Amosu have failed to make remittance for upward of 68 months amounting to N30 billion, the labor leaders proposed that government pay its shares and discontinue the scheme. But the governor demurred, saying the government was only prepared to stop the scheme without remitting its shares of the contributory pension fund. This the workers have rightly rejected.
On the question of the deductions for seven months of workers’ dues being taken but not remited to the unions’ purse, the workers had asked that the monies be paid to the various unions. These monies, the labour leaders said, would help clear up backlog of unpaid salaries of the unions’ employees and secretaries. But rather than release the monies, the governor asked the labor leaders to summit the names of their secretaries. This the workers declined.
At the end of the meeting, not a single demand of the workers was satisfactorily addressed by the governor. To worsen the situation, a few days after the parley, the state government came up with vexatious policies: 1. All civil servants summit their Bank Verification Number (BVN) and 2. That civil servants should pay N7, 500 for verification of certificates. This is notwithstanding the fact that, at the point of entrance into the civil service, the workers’ certificates had been verified.
On the 4th April 7, 2016, the labour leaders called a meeting of the workers to collectively decide on the next line pf action following the fallout from the parley with the governor. The meeting held at the NLC Secretariat Abeokuta, and was well attended by workers across various affiliates. Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) was equally invited in recognition of our long standing solidarity with workers in the state and our roles in the suspended strike action. A DSM member was called to the high table during the discussions and gave a solidarity message.
At the end of the deliberations, the following resolutions were arrived at by the workers:
A. The money deducted from their salaries without remittance to the union and cooperative societies should be refunded to workers and therefore should be seen as balance of salaries being owed by the government.
B. Starting with April salary, government should pay, in addition to the monthly salary, one month salary balance/deductions for the next eight months till the eight months unpaid salary balances are cleared.
C. That government has the support of workers to verify their certificates, but that workers should not be made to pay for the verifications. Labour therefore demands a stop to the collection of N7, 500 and refund made to those the fees have been collected from.
D. That government did sign agreement with workers, and remained binding on the government, and as such, the governor should commence the payment of the 7.5% salary increment.
E. That the aims and objectives of the Cooperative Societies have been defeated by the government’s refusal to remits deductions from salaries to the cooperatives. Therefore, workers should be allowed voluntary exit, since they joined willingly.
F. That since successive governments have failed to remit its shares of the contributory pension fund for 68 months, it should pay off its shares and discontinue the scheme.
G. That BVN remains strictly personal to each worker. In the event government suspects ghost workers, government should embark on biometric exercise.
Although the moods of the workers favor the issuance of an ultimatum and the resumption of the strike action to press home their demands, the leadership asked to be allowed to continue consultations with those whose appeals led the suspension of the strike action including the traditional rulers, while the mobilization continues.
Given the recalcitrance of the government, it is clear that it is only mass struggle including strike that will force it to accede to the demands of workers. Therefore, we call on labour leaders to immediately commence public activities like rallies, press conference, symposia, leafleting and other political actions geared towards mobilizing the support of the general public towards their plights and for all legitimate actions taken against the callous objection of the government to their just demands.