Judex Okoro, Calabar
Labour crisis is brewing among the organised unions of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Negotiating Council over the planned industrial action declared by NLC leadership in Cross River.
The NLC had on June 1, 2020 after its emergency meeting declared a trade dispute with Cross River governrment over non-implementation of agreements by the latter and vowed to call out workers on June 15, 2020 to press home its demands.
The Chairman of NLC, Comrade Ben Ukpepi, had among others accused the government of non-implenmenration of promotions, non-remittance of deducted check off dues of some workers to the Association of Senior Civil Servants, and inability to resolve the NURTW park contract in the metropolis
Ukpebi demamdes immediate restoration of workers whose names were removed from payroll in September 2019, giving the government a 14-day ultimatum or workers would down their tools indefinitely.
But in what appeares as a crack in the organised labour, the Trade Union Congress (TUC ), and the State Public Service Negotiating Council, have dissociated themselves from the strike called by the state NLC, describing it as insensitive amid the outbreak of global pandemic.
Disassociating itselves from strike,the two labour organisations in a separate letters to Governor Ben Ayade said there were no cogent reasons for workers to embark on strike at this time as all the issues raised by the organized labour have either been addressed or on the verge of being addressed by the Ayade administration.
While the TUC’s letter was signed by Comrades Daniel Effiong and Ken Bassey, Vice Chairman and Secretary respectively, the State Public Service Negotiating Council was signed by Julius M Nkoji, Chairman and Clarkson Otu as Secretary.
TUC letter read in parts: “We seize this opportunity to commend you and your team on the fight against the COVID-19 which so far is a sucess story making Cross River state the only state free of the virus in Nigeria as confirmed by the NCDC.”
” We write this letter in reference to the 14-day ultimatum issued by the Nigerian Labour Congress,Cross River state and copied to us. For as much we are not joining issues with the NLC we want to categorically state that we were neither consulted nor informed about the ultimatum.
“We disassociate ourselves and affiliate from the ill- fated, ill- advised and unwarranted ultimatum at this critical time. It added that some of the issues warranting the ultimatum namely, the national minimum wage, implementation of promotion, restoration of names into pay roll etc are issues that were collectively negotiated by organised labour- the joint council, the TUC and the NLC.
“We are also aware that the verification of suspended names from the payroll was also billed to commence before the COVID-19 induced restrictions and discussions were ongoing with the Head of Service on how best to address the issue. We do not want to believe that the NLC is not sensitive enough to the socio- economic environment.”
On its part, the State Public Service Negotiating Council, attributed the delay in implementing some of the agreements to the COVID-19 pandemic and however, urged the government to speed up the process “now that lockdown is being relaxed.
“Therefore, the 14-day ultimatum issued by the NLC is not in good faith, especially now that the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council which speaks for civil servants has not exhausted all avenues and has not referred any matter to the NLC as a labour centre for assistance.