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Fashola charges workers on industrial harmony, decries factionalisation of unions




CITING its impact on the nation’s economy, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has called on labour unions in the country to find alternative means of pressing home their demands other than industrial actions.

Fashola, addressing workers at the May Day celebration, said one too many industrial actions and lockouts is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

While he is not against workers demanding their rights, he said it begins with having a united and strong Nigeria labour union that is devoid of the current factions.

He argued that only a mindset of collective bargaining, negotiation and sacrifice by the workers would strengthen the workers’ unions to achieve their objectives and benefit the polity.

Citing the political sphere as an instance, Fashola said: “All of us have seen the All Progressives Congress (APC) but what happened in the APC was that the leaders sacrificed, everybody put the nation before the party. ACN surrendered their name, CPC, ANPP, APGA surrendered. You know why this is important is that we must stop having factions in labour; the welfare of the workers must be bigger than political ambition of the member.

“A divided labour is a fragile labour. The new government coming in from the state and national level need a united and strong labour not a divided labour force that cannot deliver on its aspiration. So, whatever it takes all of you the leaders must reach out and compromise and you must have one united labour,” he said.

Fashola added that the challenges before workers in Nigeria were not different from those encountered by labour organisations in other parts of the world, where every worker wants a better deal, better working hours, better welfare, better wages and working environment.

What differs from place to place is the progress that has been made in one place and the distance that needs to be travelled in other. But in doing this, industrial actions should be the last resort, he said.

According to the governor, very substantial revenue that could have been deployed to improve lives of the citizens is lost anytime workers resorts to strikes.

A low scale study carried out on strikes between the year 2007 and 2014 showed that almost 30 different strikes took place between that periods with about 1,279 days lost to the strike actions.

“Let me dimension what that can mean if it took place in Lagos alone. This state generates an approximate N20 Billion every month. So every day, it is about N600million. If you do it in Lagos it would mean N852 Billion lost. Imagine what that would have done in your lives?”

He said he was reiterating the point not because anything is wrong with strikes on their own, but that everything is wrong with deploying the wrong solution to a problem.

“What we need most is to deliver power, to revive our economy, to create jobs. Strikes will not revive the Nigerian economy,” he said.

Fashola argued that when wages rise, it does not necessarily translate to succor for the workers because of the corresponding economic reprisals.

”I have seen wages negotiated by up to 40 per cent. Indeed, when we raised minimum wages for the lowest paid Nigerian worker from N10, 000 to N18, 000, if my arithmetic is correct that is an 80 per cent increase. Now when the wages go up by 80 per cent does the national income go up by 80 per cent? There is bound to be a mismatch somewhere.”

Going forward, the governor said, “Now that we have all voted for change our attitudes and strategies must change.”

“This is the only way we can experience change. One of the things that we need to change and I am happy all of our labour leaders are here, is that we have stood here year after year, every year what is the national communiqué we have produced from these rallies?

“Instead of standing in the sun every year, we can use all these money for face caps and other beautiful things to hire a hall and have a one-day workshop on how to solve the problems in Nigeria. Whether it is housing, power or education. Let us have a debate championed by labour for a whole day lets change the strategy.”

Fashola, who reflected that the 2015 May Day Rally would be the last one he would be attending as the governor, thanked everyone for their support and criticisms saying they all helped in no small measure to bring the administration to this glorious day.

He urged the organized labour to give his successor, Akinwunmi Ambode, more support than they gave him.

Representative of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, who is the Federal Controller of Labour, Solomon Adelegan, earlier challenged unions to ensure that in their determination to uphold the spirit of democracy and economic revival, they are also prepared to make sacrifices for the unity of the union.

Adelegan appealed to labour unions to seize the opportunity of May Day to reflect deeply on what more they need to do to keep to the rules of the game particularly when they conduct union elections as winners should be magnanimous in victory and losers gallant in defeat for the unity and stability of the union.

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