Repositioning labour movement amid economic decline

There is no doubt that Nigerian workers today are burdened with the challenges of low wages, poor working conditions and the outrageous cost
Special Adviser to the Governor of Oyo State on Media and Communications, Dayo Ogunbowale (left); Chairman, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ogun State, Akeem Lasisi; TUC Chairman, Lagos State, Gbenga Ekundayo; Labour and Human Right lawyer, Barr Femi Aborisade; Workers' Advocate Award recipient, Amb Sola Iji represented by Barr Femi Abimbola; TUC Chairman, Oyo State, Bosun Olabiyi; TUC Chairman, Ondo State, Clement Fatuwase and TUC Secretary, Lagos State, Comrade Abiodun Aladetan at 2024 Southwest Labour Summit.
Special Adviser to the Governor of Oyo State on Media and Communications, Dayo Ogunbowale (left); Chairman, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ogun State, Akeem Lasisi; TUC Chairman, Lagos State, Gbenga Ekundayo; Labour and Human Right lawyer, Barr Femi Aborisade; Workers’ Advocate Award recipient, Amb Sola Iji represented by Barr Femi Abimbola; TUC Chairman, Oyo State, Bosun Olabiyi; TUC Chairman, Ondo State, Clement Fatuwase and TUC Secretary, Lagos State, Comrade Abiodun Aladetan at 2024 Southwest Labour Summit.

With the many struggles workers face daily to make ends meet, to address the quagmire, the call that the country’s labour movement must be united to work together as one indivisible entity to defend and protect the rights of Nigerian workers has been made, writes GLORIA NWAFOR.

There is no doubt that Nigerian workers today are burdened with the challenges of low wages, poor working conditions and the outrageous cost of living due to high inflation owing to the removal of fuel subsidy.
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From socio-economic and political crises down to the happenings in the field of industrial relations environment in the country, workers’ challenges are worsened daily.

These have pushed many workers, including labour leaders to leave the country for greener pastures overseas, thus causing a decline within the labour movement.

To make the labour movement stand tall amid socio-economic decline, the labour movement has been urged to unite and work together as one indivisible entity, by collaborating and partnering as a team to defend and protect the rights of Nigerian workers.
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Speaking at the just-concluded Labour Summit, organised by the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) South West states on ‘Repositioning the Labour Movement amid Economic Decline in Nigeria’, at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, Issa Aremu, said labour leaders and trade unions needed to be available to play the role of becoming a voice of the voiceless and masses as well as regain their confidence.

Represented by Raji Ayo, a staff of the Institute, Aremu, said globally, while capitalists are uniting, Nigeria’s trade unions also must unite strongly to work against declining the labour movement, and be a formidable force to confront everything that will divide our rank.

“We must build our leadership capabilities, develop and equip our collective bargaining skills and embrace knowledge continuously. We must work together to build a Nigeria where every worker is empowered, valued and treated with the respect that they deserve,” he said.
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Also, in a paper titled, ‘Economic Hardship Under President Bola Tinubu Regime: Any Hope for the Masses?’, a labour lawyer and activist, Femi Aborisade, presented eight tabular indices on fuel price, evaluation/ exchange rate, inflation, minimum wage globally, minimum wage/purchasing power, basic food costs, crude oil prices and FAAC allocation, said findings from the tables confirmed governance by state-imposed economic terrorism.

According to him, amid plenty, many Nigerians are chronically poor, through the series of economic policies of the President Bola Tinubu regime.
He lamented that the policies of the Tinubu-led regime have enabled the rich to get richer while the poor are dying in poverty.

He said the root cause of the unprecedented pains of the masses is the unjustifiable hike in fuel price under the guise of removal of subsidy, stating that he should reverse the fuel price hike by reducing fuel price to the last regulated rate.
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Noting that there are alternatives to the suffering of the masses, Aborisade stressed that it all depends on the policy options adopted.

He added that it would be heartwarming if the TUC South West joint workshop could resolve to initiate the building of a solidarity movement as a form of social movement, which other people interested in changing society may join, to fight for the interests of workers and the poor on a nationwide basis and a daily basis.

The President of TUC, Festus Osifo, lamented the poor standard of living of Nigerians, especially workers due to unchecked hyperinflation, adding that the economic challenge in the country has drastically eroded money for commodity value.

Osifo emphasized Nigeria’s abundant yet underutilised mineral resources even as he criticised the frivolous expenditure of revenue generated from the resources.

Chairman, TUC, South West, Gbenga Ekundayo, said even as the economy needed to be positioned, the labour summit would be held periodically to discuss topical issues affecting the well-being of workers in the Southwestern region of Nigeria.
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He commended the southwest governors who have continued to prioritise the welfare of workers through prompt payment of salaries and pensions as well as taking the health insurance of workers seriously.

At the panel sessions, where the sub-themes like ‘20 Years of the Contributory Pension Scheme, Challenges, Opportunity and Prospect’, ‘The Role of the Labour Movement in the Political Development and Democratic Enrichment of Nigeria in the 21st Century’ and ‘Diminished Wages Amidst a Weak Economy, Poor Social Insurance Coverage and Inadequate Social Safety Nets’ among others deliberated on, the panelists lamented that it was appalling that currently only six states in the country are fully subscribed to the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).

They argued that while the six states have no law backing pensions, however, five out of the six states have laws backing pensions for their governors and deputies.

Noting that the scheme should be encompassing, they noted that there should be adequate training of officials handling the CPS and increase awareness to avoid misconception and the ripple effect of workers not remitting.
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They urged that workers should ensure they monitor their Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs) regularly and ensure that deductions are remitted to avoid being shortchanged.

However, the workers called for the scrap of the CPS, saying it is a ‘scam’ and designed to short-change workers, following the experiences shared by retired workers.

They expressed their grievance on the current palliative measures of the governments since the fuel subsidy removal.

According to them, Nigerian workers are treated like slaves and contract workers with no benefits.

They called for workers must begin to organise as a force to resist bad governance so their interests could be actualised, especially in the ongoing negotiation for minimum wage.
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