CDWR WELCOMES NMA SUSPENSION OF “SIT-AT-HOME” STRIKE ACTION AFTER WINNING CONCESSION
CDWR CALLS ON SECURITY AGENCIES TO RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF ALL ESSENTIAL WORKERS INCLUDING MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND JOURNALISTS
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) welcomes the decision by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu’s to amend an initial order which was meant to clamp down on essential workers and re-issue another which clearly directed the police to respect the fundamental rights of medical practitioners, journalists and other essential workers, and all citizens across the country.
We wish to put on record that it took a declaration of a sit-at-home strike action by Lagos State Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) before the Lagos State Government and the Police High Command could intervene. This is a lesson for the working people that they have to fight for their rights, for their rights to be recognized and be respected. The CDWR hereby applauds the NMA and all doctors and medical professionals who responded to this call for action. The NMA, NARD and other unions/associations of health professional must now draw useful lessons from this and map out a strategy of joint struggle to protect the interests of their members.
Perhaps the most important lesson is to Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC). These are powerful labour centres which command a membership of hundreds of thousands if not millions, yet the leadership continue to dawdle despite increasing attacks on wages, jobs and workers’ safety. While lockdown has been eased in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, many workplaces have no effective safety measures thus exposing workers to high risk. Yet the labour movement is not taking action except occasional press statements.
Unless it changes course, this lukewarm approach of the labour leaders will ensure that the working class bears the brunt of both the health implication of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential economic catastrophe through job losses, wage cuts and impoverishment. For example, at least 57 workers have been infected at iSON Xperiences – a customer service agency in Ibadan, Oyo state. Given the pre-existing terrible slave and inhuman working conditions in place in many factories and sweatshops across the country, it will take serious struggle for any serious COVID-19 safety measures to be observed. The action of the NMA shows that struggle pays. The NLC, TUC and ULC must take a cue from this and map out a programme of action to begin to fight against retrenchment, sack, wage cut, non-payment and downsizing going on in different industries. This must be combined with demands to ensure that workers are safe at their workplaces and home.
Once again, we commend the NMA for pointing the way. Now having won a concession, the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has suspended its sit-at-home order. We, however, urge that this should not lead to complacency or a false sense of security. As they say, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The NMA and other health unions must now go ahead to form democratic safety committees cutting across all departments to ensure that safety standards are enforced in each hospital, laboratories and isolation centres while the rights and safety of all health workers are argued for and defended through strike actions and protests where necessary. Part of the demands should include adequate staff buses with safety-compliant seating arrangement to convey health professionals to and from work, N100,000 special monthly allowance, full life insurance, adequate PPE and a free, functional and public funded health care under the democratic management of workers.
The CDWR will continue to support all essential workers including journalists to resist any attacks on their rights. According to the NMA, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police had earlier issued a contrary order to the ones issued by the government. As a result of this, the police have been harassing doctors. The police in Lagos have also harassed other medical workers, journalists, port workers, food processing workers and other essential workers. CDWR has received reports of harassment and intimidation of essential workers despite being exempted from restrictions. In many cases, huge sums of money are extorted from the captured workers by the police at gunpoint. What medical workers and journalists go through in the hands of police is even probably far better compared to what ordinary people who for instance seek medical attention other than COVID-19 and were caught by curfew.
Harassment of workers on a daily basis by the police is a stock in trade. The political office holders who do not play any concrete role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic move around in violation of the regulations and are heavily guarded by the same police. It shows the little or no importance the police places on workers and they are taking a cue from the manner workers are maltreated by the government.
CDWR demands an end to all forms of harassment of essential workers, workers in general and ordinary people by security operatives.