Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

DSM Condemns Osun NLC Chairman’s Comments on Salaries and Pensions

DSM Condemns Osun NLC Chairman’s Comments on Salaries and Pensions

We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State Chapter, express our displeasure over comments credited to the chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Osun State, Mr. Jacob Adekomi by a television station, absolving the Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government of any wrongdoing in the payment of salaries and pension to workers and retirees. We find the comments credited to Mr. Adekomi as insult to the sensibility of workers and pensioners in Osun State. We also view such comments as unbecoming of labour leader, whose main responsibility is the protection of workers’ welfare and rights.

According to the news story reported by Channels TV, Mr. Adekomi claimed that the Aregbesola government has paid workers’ salaries up to date; yet he revealed that the last salary workers received was that of January 2016. Mr. Adekomi deliberately was silent on the February and March salaries as if workers have no right to salaries for these months. In case Mr. Adekomi does not know, it is workers’ right to have their salaries as at when due, in this case the end of the month. That Mr. Adekomi is defending government’s delayed payment of salaries for workers, many of whom are languishing in penury and want, shows that Mr. Adekomi is not speaking for workers but for the Aregbesola government that is making life unbearable for workers, who are supposed to be members of Adekomi’s union.

That workers under the employ of the Osun State government are suffering is no more news. Aside the half salaries that are paid irregularly, which has disoriented the finances of most workers, many of the workers have also been put into odious debt situation by the government, thanks to non-payment of salaries and pensions, and withholding of loan payments, cooperative deductions and dues. This has meant many workers having their accounts in red even when salaries are paid. Even those who are not paying any loan cannot meet their needs and those of their families as the half salaries can hardly take them home. Some workers and pensioners have died of curable diseases, due to inability to afford basic drugs, while many others are lying critically ill due to similar situation. Therefore, comments credited to the NLC chairman in Osun State are at best insensitive to the plight of workers in the state.

Attempt of Mr. Adekomi to narrow non-payment of workers’ salaries to federal allocations coming to the state is an exercise in the service of the Aregbesola government. Workers are not working for federal allocations but the state and their employment letter did not state that their salaries will depend on federal allocations. Mr. Adekomi’s attempt to justify non-payment of salaries of workers on the ground of low federal allocation is horrible. This excuse is a potent tool for the anti-worker Aregbesola government to introduce worse labour policies such as outright denial of payment of salaries, retrenchment of workers, among others. It is not the responsibility of labour leaders to help government justify its anti-labour policy. Serious and genuine labour leaders are expected to defend the legitimate rights of their members. Anything to the contrary is a disservice to the workers’ cause.

We also condemn the NLC chairman’s justification for continuous payment of illegal half salaries to workers in Osun State. As we in the DSM have stated severally, the policy of half salary is unknown to law. By agreeing to payment of half salaries, the NLC is technically agreeing to reduction of workers’ salaries by half, which is against the current minimum wage law. It is funny that the same NLC chairman, who addressed the media in late February 2016, rejecting half salaries and calling for payment of full salaries and arrears of half salaries owed by government for about seven months is now saying something contrary; less than two months after. Inconsistency is not a sign of good leadership.

While Osun NLC chairman was quick to justify non-payment of salaries and half-salary policy, he could not explain why the same state government that used workers’ names to collect almost N34.9 billion from federal government as bailout has not been able to pay salaries or his paying half salaries. According to government’s own admission, about N5 billion has been used to pay salaries out of the N34.9 billion. The question then is; where is the remaining N30 billion? Why are workers’ salaries unpaid even when the state government has almost N30 billion meant for payment of salaries and pensions? Interestingly, the same state government that has refused to pay workers’ salaries and pensions has suddenly found money to mobilize contractors to site. As much as we would want rapid development of the state in terms of infrastructure, we maintain that Aregbesola government is not actually interested in serious infrastructural development of the state, but is only using public funds to enrich private pockets through award of bogus contracts to cronies. While the state government has mortgaged the state to contractors such that all allocations coming to the state first go to contractors and financial institutions, the bailout given to the state to pay workers is also being diverted by the government to private ends.

Therefore, what a serious labour leader should be demanding is not just payment of the salary arrears, but a probe of the money collected by the state government on behalf of workers. Mr. Adekomi’s comment on the bailout fund is that it is safe. This shows that the labour leader is in the know of how the funds are being mismanaged, but prefers to side with the government, to the detriment of workers.

We also condemn the divisive comments of NLC chairman claiming pensioners were not meant to collect pensions from the bailout fund. This kind of comment is clearly unfortunate. Pensioners and their union are part of NLC, and are therefore expected to be defended by NLC. If Mr. Adekomi can be claiming that NLC is being magnanimous by allowing pensions to be paid, then there is problem with the leadership of labour movement in the state. One expects labour leader to fervently defend both workers and pensioners. But Mr. Adekomi’s comment on pensioners betrays his contempt for pensioners who, unlike the NLC, have taken some actions in defence of their right to regular pension. What Mr. Adekomi is carelessly doing is to disrobe pensioners and make them vulnerable to attack by the Aregbesola government. Just as workers have right to regular and adequate salaries, so retirees have right to regular and living pensions. It is the responsibility of labour leaders to defend both sections of the working class, and not try to pitch one section against the other as Mr. Adekomi tried to do in his reported comments.

Conclusively, we call on Mr. Adekomi to retract his comments and apologise to workers and retirees in Osun State whose sensibility he has insulted. It is noteworthy that Mr. Adekomi has not, since the salary crisis started almost 2 years ago, called a single congress of workers to deliberate on how to defend workers’ welfare. Yet, he and other members of the executive have been taking decisions and representing workers in government committees without workers’ consent. We call on workers, genuine labour leaders and activists, to take proactive measures to rescue the labour movement in Osun State, which it seems is in its worst state, especially in terms of leadership. Workers should mount pressure on their various in-house union leaders to defend workers’ rights and welfare. Workers must demand that regular congresses need to be called in this period.

We call on workers and pensioners in Osun State to reject half salaries and demand full payment of all outstanding salaries. Workers were not the ones who mismanaged the state resources; they should not be made to bear the brunt of the politicians’ mismanagement of state resources. Labour leaders should defend workers’ interests, and not serve as mouthpiece for government and its anti-labour policies.

Alfred Adegoke, State Coordinator
Kola Ibrahim, State Secretary