By Henry Uche, Lagos
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has called on government at all levels to strengthen social security for workers to boost their morale for maximum productivity.
At the 2021 May Day celebration, TUC Chairman, Lagos State Council, Gbenga Ekundayo, who spoke on theme: “COVID-19 pandemic: Social Economic Crisis, Challenges for Decent Jobs, Social Protection and People’s Welfare”, said members of Lagos law enforcement agencies are exposed to risks and hazards daily, causing deaths of officers.
According to him, not a few officers are rendered incapacitated by hoodlums who stop at nothing to violate the law and perpetrate crime. He called on government to ensure the protection of officers and men and to ensure that the insurance packages put in place for them are urgently paid whenever there are cases of casualty, so that the families of those who lost their love ones won’t have to wait long to access the benefits and those behind this dastardly act to be exposed and brought to book to serve as a deterrent to other intending violators.
The chairman frowned at the way employers dealt with employees during the heat of the global pandemic, saying: ‘We noted with dismay cases where employees have had their contracts of employment ‘suspended’, or materially altered without their consent or input into the process, pay cuts, reduced working hours, leave without pay, declaration of redundancy and force termination in some extreme cases, we call on relevant bodies to address these wicked acts.’
Ekundayo commended Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu for consistently prioritising the welfare of workers, saying: ‘While some governors are reeling out excuses and reneging from their constitutional responsibilities, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration kept the welfare of workers at the front burner by ensuring salaries and other statutory deductions are paid as and when due.
‘We commend you profoundly for the approval given to the Organized Labour for the establishment of what will be known as WORKERS’ VILLAGE. This Housing scheme will to a large extent help to reduce the housing deficit in the State and will also assist workers in having a place they can call home.
‘We thank you for the 10 hectares of land approved for the Federal Mortgage Bank so that the Lagos State Workers’ who are NHF contributors can benefit. We commend you for the recently granted increase in allocated housing units of State housing projects, from 10% to 20%, with 40% rebate, for government workers on all government housing schemes.’
TUC also commended the state government for training and re-training of all labour leaders in Lagos State locally, exposing them to the new normal and international best practices.
They bemoaned the upsurge of violation of the right of workers particularly those in the private sector since the outbreak of the pandemic, stressing that Workers in the informal sector who are not organized are more vulnerable and their situation made worse due to the non-existing social security system in the country.
‘We condemn in strong terms all unfair labour practices at this critical time while also calling for more awareness on the right of workers by Union leaders and the need for social dialogue by critical stakeholders. The governments must, as a matter of urgency, look for ways to strengthen the social security system so that workers can be adequately protected at all times.
‘Post-COVID-19 is not the time to dispense with labour. Collaboration between all social partners in the industrial relations arena at this critical period in the world of work is the only way to go. Employers of Labour must as a matter of necessity carry Labour along on critical decisions at this time. This is the only way that collective bargaining agreement can be respected and enforced in an atmosphere where international best practices are adopted in resolving dispute amicably.’
The TUC implored the Lagos State Government to support private sector for economic growth and development and jobs sustainability. They urged government to urgently reduce the financial pressure on companies and individuals to enable them remain in production, noting that this could be done via tax rebate, reduction of personal income tax and electricity tarrifs so that consumers would have more money to stimulate the economy.
They also urged Governor Sanwo-Olu to implement the approval given former governors Bola Tinubu in 2001 and Mr Akinwunmi Ambode in 2019, respectively, to harmonise salaries and allowances of state counsel with those of magistrate.
‘We consider it strange that, despite the several approvals and the understanding that it will be implemented along with the last new minimum wage, the state government is yet to implement it, eighteen months after the implementation of the new minimum wage. This is already causing disaffection in the ministry. We appeal to Mr Governor to direct the necessary authorities for the speedy implementation of the approvals for the harmonization of salary, allowances and conditions of service of the state legal counsel along with that of magistrate.
They sought the need to constitute relevant boards where labour was supposed to have presence. They entreated the governor to kindly put in place the board of the Lagos State Pensions Commission, which was dissolved by ex-Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and that of energy with TUC representation on those boards especially where stipulated by the law. This will give a sense of belonging to the labour movement regarding the activities of those agencies and commissions.
‘We want the governor to put a stop to importation of Directors from the private sector to occupy strategic positions in the the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS). This act has endangered and impeded Personnel of LIRS from growing to the peak of their career because of the obnoxious culture. More so, this practice is killing the morale of these hard working officers, yet personnel of LIRS have all the requisite qualifications needed to head the agencies in all capacity.
‘Therefore, we see no reason for this culture of bringing directors from the private sector into the agency because research has shown that such people will need more time before they can even hit the ground running because of the background of where they are coming from. The public sector has its own operational guidelines which most often are not really operational in the private sector. To this end, we call on the state government to please put a stop to this practice.’
On security, they maintained that unemployment, extreme poverty and other inequalities are the root of the dire ssocio-eonomic unrest in the country. They posited that ‘the rate at which Lagosians are now being attacked at night, particularly in traffic, is becoming worrisome. A lot of people have lost their personal belongings and other valuables as a result of some of these attacks by hoodlums who operate particularly during heavy traffic. Lagos must as a matter of urgency address this security concern.
‘To save Nigeria from a looming catastrophe, we as organised labour are therefore calling on government at all levels take urgent steps to address economic challenges that gave birth to insecurity in the country, especially youth unemployment, extreme poverty and deteriorating standards of living.
TUC appealed that all on-going road construction and maintenance activities being carried out within the state, should have signages with the details of contractors including phone numbers, mail address, project specifications, completion timeframe or expected delivery date and other vital information, to enable citizens especially the media to track and monitor such projects in their areas so that they can be completed to specification and at the stipulated time.
They added that Lagos State needs to overhaul the existing water infrastructure that is presently partially operational at the state’s water corporation, affirming that the poor state of water resource in the State is not doing good to the image of the state as a mega city.
‘The rapid growth of the megacities of the developing world has posed major challenge for water planning and management. We strongly believe that a deliberate policy direction to address this water situation in Lagos State will ameliorate this challenge.’
They maintained that would continue to carry out its corporate social responsibilities despite meager resources.
‘We have made it a policy decision to give back to the society always. In 2019 we were at the Hearts of Gold Children Hospice in Surulere where we identified with the special children by way of donations of items. In 2020 during the lockdown, we were able to provide food items to over 350 people in Makoko Yaba, Lagos for those in need, while in 2021, just couple of ago, we donated a Special toilet to the Junior Grammar School, Special, Itolo, Surulere for the use of special children on wheel chairs,’ they added.