NLC opposes use of contributory pension for palliatives
• Aremu Advocates ‘Labour Market Situation Room’
• ‘Workers Must Not Suffer Under Any Guise’
• NECA Seeks Creation Of COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday, said it was opposed to the use of contributory pension as palliatives for workers as part of the move to cushion the effect of the lockdown over Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
President of NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, while fielding questions from newsmen at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 daily press briefing in Abuja, sequel to his question if the contributory pension could be used as palliatives as the lockdown entered the fourth week, said that there was need to protect the money and the owners of the contributory pension, adding that such money should not be used as palliatives.
Wabba, however, lauded the PTF members for the work they were doing to curtail the pandemic, adding that its Chairman, Mr. Boss Mustapha, must be commended for the interface between PTF and NLC.
He said that the NLC would continue to be reasonable by engaging the government and the PTF, while commending the frontline health workers for the sacrifice they are making to curtail the virus, noting that looking at the number of health workers affected by COVID-19, it was imperative to interface with the taskforce.
He said that the NLC had produced locally-made facemasks, which can be washed, iron and resided, and would be distributed free to some Nigerians. Some of the facemasks were presented to Mustapha, who is also Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), for onward distribution.
Mustapha, while receiving the facemasks, commended the NLC for the support and urged others to emulate the gesture to complement government efforts at containing COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the immediate past general secretary of National Union of Textile, Garments, and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), Issa Aremu, has called for the establishment of ‘labour-market situation room’ that comprises Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC), state and federal government that would be saddled with the responsibility of discussing all labour-related issues after COVID-19 pandemic.
Aremu said as states and federal government review salaries, workers must not suffer under any guise, whether it is non-payment of salaries or outright retrenchment, saying: “Under the lockdown, livelihood of workers must be guaranteed. The policy thrust of government must be that the country needs the health and wealth of Nigerian workers, which combined is the wellbeing of workers.
“In the face of dwindling crude oil price and review of budgets, every government official should know that this is the time to ensure every worker gets by. We must confront COVID-19 collectively, otherwise, we would be defeated individually. We must implement smart lockdown, which will not put a stop to life.
“For example, I don’t see why banks should not be working full time, because this is the time to create a new economy that will arise as a result of the ‘new normal.’
Aremu also urged the federal and state governments to ensure minimum pension is moved to N30, 000, saying no pensioner can survive on the current N10, 000 per monthly.
Director General of NECA, Timothy Olawale, urged the federal and state governments to balance the protection of lives with economic interests, saying while protection of life should take precedence, the need to protect the economic foundation of the nation cannot be discounted, as it would ultimately sustain life.
He stated: “While government takes decisive steps to protect lives, efforts should also be made to keep productive activities going. Without delicately balancing the scale, the consequential negative effects of the pandemic will not only include unimaginable loss of lives, massive job losses and heightened insecurity, it might also lead to unnecessary social revolt.”
Olawale submitted that the stimulus packages announced by the federal government has not addressed the critical needs of businesses that would guarantee sustainability and protection of jobs and called for more direct wage or income support, wage subsidies, tax credits or tax deferrals, short-term work schemes, moratoriums on loan payments and the establishment of a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where government pays up to 60 per cent of private sector salaries until June, as long as workers are not laid off, as done in other climes, such as the United Kingdom (UK), France, Denmark, etc. These, he added, would reduce the negative impact on businesses and slow the rate of job loss.
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