Organised Labour, under the umbrella of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), said it has concluded plans to shut down Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and other major cities in the state, over alleged rising anti-labour policies of the state government.
The union, in a statement issued,in Lagos, on Wednesday, by the Secretary-General, Alade Bashir Lawal, expressed worry that all efforts by the trade unions in Rivers State to bring the government to the negotiating table to address all festering labour matters had been treated with contempt.
The union said that outstanding labour issues in the state included the demands by trade unions that retired officers should vacate their offices in line with the Public Service Rules; that deductions made from salaries of workers under the Contributory Pension Scheme being withheld by the State Government should be remitted to the Pension Funds Custodians (PFCs) immediately; stagnation of officers, and nonpayment of statutory allowances to law officers.
“Others are illegal recruitment and unlawful placement of staff at the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS), refusal of the Head of Service to act on the ₦1million soft loan proposal by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) to individual contributors to the National Housing Fund (NHF), and non-payment of Union dues for the month of March 2015 and March 2016.
“Instead of attending to these labour issues causing restiveness in the State Public Service, the Rivers State Government elected to introduce Contributory Health Programme which the workers in Rivers State have rejected through properly constituted organs of Trade Unions in the State,” the Union emphasised.
According to the ASCSN, the labour leaders in the state were issued queries by the Head of Service and threatened with dismissal because they conveyed the decision of Rivers State workers to the government to the effect that the workers would not key into the Contributory Health Programme in view of the failure of the Contributory Pension Scheme where thousands of workers were not paid their entitlements two or three years after retirement and the woeful failure of the NHF where workers had not benefitted from the scheme more than 20 years after it came into existence.
It added that the Head of Service of Rivers State issued queries to the Chairman of the Rivers State Council of the Trade Union of Nigeria (TUC), Austine ThankGod, the Chairman of the Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Beatrice Otubo, and the Chairman of the Trade Union Side of the Joint Council, Chukwu Emechetta.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Convention 87 of the ILO on Freedom of Association and Right to organize ratified by Nigeria stated clearly that workers organizations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions, elect their representatives, organise their activities and formulate their programmes without interference from public authorities and that such organisations shall not be liable to be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority.”
“There is no doubt, therefore, that the Head of Service has overstepped his bounds on this matter and as such we join the demand of Rivers State Public Servants that he should be removed from office before he does collateral damage to the State Public Service,” the union stressed.
The ASCSN recalled that the Rivers State Government had recently suspended the executive committee members of Rivers State Government Medical Doctors affiliated to the Nigerian Medical Association for releasing a statement the government did not like and that the queries to the Chairpersons of the TUC, the NLC and the Joint Council in the State was a prelude to dissolve the three Labour organisations.
The ASCSN advised Governor Nyesom Wike to be wary of overzealous fifth columnist in his Government who were bent on not only denting his profile as the Executive Governor of Rivers State but also wish to bring him into a collision course with the labour movement in the state.