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New Labour Centre: Registration of unions has become cash and carry —Wabba: Politics : Nigerialog.com - Nigeria's Premier Online Forum
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New Labour Centre: Registration of unions has become cash and carry —Wabba
New Labour Centre: Registration of unions has become cash and carry —Wabba
January 10, 2017, 06:03:57 AM
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), speaks with SOJI-EZE FAGBEMI on the newly launched Labour Centre, the United Labour Congress, which is led by his opponent in the 2015 National Delegates’ Conference of the NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, his position on the scheme by the former deputy president of the NLC to register the third Labour Centre in the country and the labour expectation in 2017 on the much awaited new national minimum wage.
Some prominent labour leaders recently launched alternative Labour Centre called United Labour Congress (ULC). What is your position on this and the implication for labour movement in the country, especially the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)?
Let me assure you that we will do everything to preserve the unity of the labour movement. We will ensure the unity of the labour movement not only with them but our colleagues, the TUC. Essentially you are aware that we have done everything possible to try to ensure that the issue of reconciliation aftermath our 2015 conference is addressed and you are also aware that our veterans have put in their best, especially the founding President, Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu. But, it is most unfortunate when people try to occupy position at all cost. You are also aware that at a time, they declared themselves president and deputy president respectively, particularly the gladiators in this particular issue, Joe Ajaero and Achese. I think the facts are very obvious, because none of you (journalists) that did not participate in the conference. This is a conference that was adjudged free, fair and credible by all organisations, the ILO, the Federal Ministry of Labour and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which actually participated in the process. I think with all of these, it is very obvious that people just want to insist that they must occupy position at all cost. The joy we have is that we are connected with our people, because formation of a Centre is something that has to do with the rank and files. The strength of every centre is in the rank and files and it is very clear you saw how we have been able to engage issues in the states, even in their states, where we went and the joy we have is that we are connected with the people. We will do everything to address it, but that will not deter us because it is about the people. The processes of forming labour centre, which we are also aware of, entails that the components will have to go to their delegates’ conference to get mandate, which we are aware that, that mandate as far as we are concern has not been gotten by any of them. That is not to say that, it is not an issue. It is an issue and that is why I have issued a formal statement, which captured the essence of the approach that would be taken.
The newly launched centre claimed to have about 28 affiliate unions. Could these be from the affiliates of the NLC?
Those are issues we will take up all together but I think this is part of misinformation because if you have these numbers, you ought to have listed them so that people can interrogate all of these. This is not even the issue we are approaching now. Yes, it is an issue and we are going to see how we respond to them effectively through our organs. Those are questions you journalists are supposed to ask, because if I say I have 30 children, you asked for their names. That thing is normal in any process. I think different interest groups have quoted different figures and if you remember throughout the process of the challenge, a lot of figures have been quoted at different time, and I think this is part of it. We will not dissipate energy to try to look at the number and the people but if you look at their statement they quoted some from the TUC, they quoted some from NLC but I think the list have not been made very clear. That is not even the issue; our issue is that we are committed to defending the interests of the workers. Particularly in their communique, they raised the issue of challenge of payment of salaries. I don’t know what engagement any of them has done in respect of that, even when we went to organise joint approaches to respond to those issues even in their own states, they went under. That is to tell you that it is the unity of the movement that can be able to salvage some of those issues. So, we are committed to that and the statement we issued put that into context, I think those informations are still very sketchy because those unions have not been listed.
Did the extant Labour laws allow for this?
I am aware that the issue of registration of unions has become a matter of cash and carry where you pay money and people try to register you overnight. We are going to interrogate the laws, we are going to also get the details and we will make sure that where the laws are not respected we will respond to them effectively, but we will follow all the processes to ensure that at least we try to ensure that the unity takes place.
Will you then agree that with this development, the reconciliation process and the efforts have not yielded positive result?
I will not agree with you because in a process of reconciliation of two groups, the two must be really committed and that is why, if you remember the process we have gone through in the reconciliation, at a point we had the last reconciliation meeting in March, everything was agreed upon, including our leadership; that only one leadership of NLC is recognised and that the conference is sacrosanct. You are aware Hassan Sunmonu has spoken on it, and media houses have covered it. To our dismay, they issued a letter to try to actually castigate Sunmonu. The point is that even from the beginning, you can see what is playing out that people were not actually committed to the reconciliation. But I think our elders have been very committed, we on this part, we have also been very committed, but that does not mean that the process of reconciliation has no meaning. I think, essentially, whatever challenges that occurred in an organisation they can always be addressed, best, through process of reconciliation or round-table. Therefore, we remain committed to that and if you look at the records, which we have been trying to set straight, we have played our roles very effectively, but it takes two to tango and for those issues to be resolved.
I am amazed that you have consistently altered the word committed on your part and the other group; they have also consistently said they are very committed. But no one has told us which gray areas do you disagreed and why all what have been agreed have not been implemented?
I will give you documented evidence signed by the chairman of the reconciliation committee, that is the end process of the reconciliation. We have agreed that the leadership of NLC under my leadership is recognised by all of them, and at the end of this meeting you will get a copy of it. We have also agreed that in the course of the life span of this administration, if there is any vacancy that arose, from either retirement or any other issues, that such position should be filled by NEC, and they will be given consideration and that all other details in that agreement will be driven by the National Executive Council and that we should have a joints May Day at the last May Day. This was signed. Comrade Adams signed it, I signed it, Ajaero signed it and Hassan Sunmonu also signed it. That is why I keep saying that we have been very consistent; we have also remained very committed.
One very important issue of concern to workers now is the issue of minimum wage. We are aware that a committee has been set up and meeting. What is the outcome and where are we on this issue?
Let me make the point very clear that the issue of minimum wage remains very sacrosanct because of the fact that by law and practice, the review is due and overdue. I have said clearly that we cannot guarantee any industrial peace any longer if necessary steps are not taking by government to try to resolve this issue before the next May Day. This is very clear because we have sent formal notice of demand as required by law to government to try to constitute the committee. The committee has not been constituted up till now, what we have in place is the committee working on the palliatives. I am aware that part of what they have considered is the structure of the minimum wage committee, but the committee to discuss and negotiate minimum wage has not been set up till date, so we are mixing two issues. The issue of the committee that was set up to look at the issue of palliatives is the committee all of us are referring to and that committee has one or two meetings to round up whatever recommendations they have. The joint committee of government and labour and the two labour centres would meet to look at their recommendations. But essentially the committee to dialogue and negotiate the minimum wage which is supposed to be tripartite has not been set up. If it is set up, all of you will be aware of the membership and also their terms of reference as well as the timeline given to them to dispose with this very important issue. The issue is so sensitive because of the fact that a lot of our members have been subjected to a lot of difficulties, because the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerian workers has been reduced to virtually nothing because of the inflation in the system, the free fall of Naira, and to compound it, with high cost of goods and services. So, most workers now cannot meet up their daily needs, they can’t pay their rent, they can’t send their children to schools. So, side by side with the issue of fighting corruption is also for the workers to be paid a decent wage that they can be able to have a meaningful living. So, this is the challenge, therefore I want to emphatically inform you that the committee has not been set up. The issue of minimum wage is done through a tripartite system, employers, government and the organised Labour. Once you don’t have the platform and the process in place, I don’t think you should be expecting result.
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