As Nigerian workers celebrate Workers’ Day today, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has charged the Federal Government to protect workers from “uncharitable employers” who may want to maltreat workers under the guise of COVID-19.
The TUC president, Quadri Olaleye, in his May Day message, said the aftermath of COVID-19 may lead to many workers losing their means of livelihood.
“Consequent on COVID-19, many workers might eventually lose their means of livelihood. We call on government to protect workers from some uncharitable employers. Workers should not be made victims of COVID-19,” he said.
The TUC president said it has been brought to the knowledge of the labour centres that some employers were claiming that they could not pay salaries for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown, noting that it was evil and inhuman to come up with such decisions.
According to him, this is the time when individuals and organisations should show that workers are partners in progress.
“This May Day is an unusual one. It coincides with a period the world is facing extinction, if we are not careful,” he said.
He stated that COVID-19 has affected the lives of Nigerians in such a way that it is as if the country is starting life de nouveau, adding that to, this end, government, employers and workers must come together to give all to rejig the economy to avoid the looming recession.
The labour leader said TUC believes that subsidy no longer exists in the nation’s economy and advocates fixing the refineries and building new ones.
Olaleye said this would shield the economy from the vagaries and vicissitudes of international oil prices and politics.
Reiterating the need to diversify the economy, Olaleye stated that COVID-19 has once again brought to the fore that fact that any economy dependent on a sole commodity is incapable of taking that country out of the woods.
He said, “Nigeria must take advantage of her natural and human resources now. Diversification and incentives from government are key to successful industrialisation. We call on government at all levels to exploit the potential of the agricultural sector. The small and medium-scale businesses (informal sector) should also be encouraged because of the critical role in employment generation.”
As part of diversification, Olaleye advocated tax rebate of at least three months for companies in Nigeria, especially unionised ones, stating that it would to help reflate the economy.
He stated further that, “We also recommend two months free electricity to SMEs and Nigerians in general. Again, we demand that the sector be made to work efficiently. If it will take a review of the privatisation process to resolve the power question, government should go ahead, no matter whose ox is gored.”