Tuesday, September 8, 2020 9:23 am
By Okafor Ofiebor/ Port Harcourt
After days of bluffing, attempts at blackmail and even threats with court injunctions to stop their planned protest, the Rivers State Government on Monday evening at last agree to sit down with labour to iron out its differences with the unions.
Labour had declared its intention to embark on peaceful protest over alleged non implementation of national minimum wage and anti-union tactics by the Governor Nyesom Wike led administration.
In a joint statement signed by Ayuba Wabba, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and Quari Olaleye, president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), in Abuja, last Thursday, labour leaders accused Wike of authoritarianism, industrial tyranny and state sponsored violence and terrorism against workers and citizens.
In addition, labour has accused the state of sundry offences including illegal detention and prosecution of some of their leaders, and the sealing of the State chapter of NLC Secretariat since February 3 this year.
The union leaders said Wike intends to muzzle the voices of workers, noting that the governor “sees himself as a demi-god”.
They emphasised that Nigerian workers will not be cowed by the governor’s actions, adding that members of both congresses “will never succumb to his (Wike) scare tactics”.
They said workers will embark on a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital, on September 8, to draw attention to happenings in the state.
But the state government has accused the State Chapter of the NLC of colluding with its national leadership to force industrial action on workers in the State.
However, the Rivers State said the NLC and TUC failed or neglected to fulfill the condition precedent for the declaration of the strike action as prescribed in Section 4,6 and 18(1)(a) of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
In a press statement, Paulinus Nsirim, Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications said the Attorney General and Commissioner also claimed that State had obtained an interim injunction from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting in Lagos to stop the labour strike while also seeking interpretation of provisions of the Trade Dispute Act and Trade Union Act.
“Every disobedience of an Order of Court constitutes contempt of Court. The organised Labour is therefore warned against any act of overt or subtle disobedience of the substituting order,” he added.
However, the State Government eventually comes off its high horse with it called leaders of the labour unions for a meeting on Monday evening.
The outcome of the meeting led to the suspension of protest scheduled for this Tuesday in Rivers.
Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, the State Government, in a statement signed by Nsirim, quoted the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, as saying that the parties signed agreement on the implementation of the new national minimum wage and consequential adjustments.
Comrade Wabba announced that the State NLC secretariat that was sealed for the correction of structural defects would be unsealed while Government continues with correction work, if any.
He stated that the State Government would immediately restore the remittance of check-off dues and pay all outstanding arrears to the respective Labour Unions.
According to him, Government would pay the salaries withheld from health workers due to the 2017 strike action.
The NLC President also said the Parties agreed to set up a Tripartite Committee to resolve the adjustment of pensions in line with the Constitution and payment of Pension and Gratuity.
The parties, he said, agreed to take steps to discontinue all on-going litigations in relation to hitherto disputed matters.
Comrade Wabba added that no worker would be victimized on account of his or her involvement in the industrial dispute with the State Government.
He commended Governor Nyesom Wike for his statesmanship that facilitated the resolution of the dispute.
Dr. Tammy Danagogo, Secretary to the State Government, Rufus Godwins, Head of Service, Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communications and Dr. Ayebaesin Beredugo signed on behalf of Rivers State Government.
Emmanuel Ugboaja, Gen. Secretary, NLC, Musa Lawal, Secretary General, TUC, Mrs Beatrice Itubo, Chairman, NLC, Rivers State, Austin Jonah, Chairman, TUC, Rivers State, Chuku Emecheta, JPSNC, Rivers State and Obi Fortune, Secretary General, TUC, Rivers State signed on behalf of the Organized Labour.
Copy of signed Agreement: