One thing that is so glaring, at this time, is the fact that labour unions or organisations have not appreciate their roles as interceptors. Interceptors on the ground that, before any policy is being implemented or any step being taken by the government on matters affecting labour or masses, labour unions would have proactively travelled the length and breadth of such formulation to advice or caution the government on the effect of such, rather than reacting after the masses have unwillingly accepted reality of things.
The plan of Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to embark on national strike in protest to the removal of subsidy by the federal government of Nigeria is outrightly belated. It is unexpected of the labour to begin deliberation on action plan after the deed is done. This has become the norm, to always be reactant to government decisions.
Should we now assume that labour was not aware when such decisions were being cooked? Of course, government did not just wake up on a morning with deregulation agenda, it was a process. So where was union when the process was on?
Congress cannot tell us that they are not aware of this. It is absurd for labour to tell Nigerians of not being aware of government deregulation. It is not acceptable for unions to be reactive.
Deregulation matter is not today. It is recurrent and we are all aware that deregulation of the sector may happen one day. And if for any reason, which is most unlikely, for labour union not to be carried along, then the effectiveness, organization and responsibility of the union is questionable.
Nigerians should not be taken for granted. This seem to be that we are being kept in a blackout of reality of things.
Every labour setting is expected to have inter-governmental relations, public, membership relation and other departments that updates the body on activities of the government and otherwise. Affiliate unions are not mere organisations with amoebic apparatus of operations. It is unpleasant and unheard of that government would not inform the Congress that such would happen knowing fully that the effect would be directly on labour.
We want to be sure that this is not scripted, such that the purported struggle of the union is mere screenplay and dribble with the government to bamboozle and douse the tension of the ‘audience’ – the masses. Think of it, why was not a spontaneous action given if truly they are sincere with the strike action?
Labour is supposed to be watchdog following the activities of the government as it affects labour, not a ‘sleepdog’ hunting shadows. It is preposterous and there is need for us to wake to reality. Labour embarking on strike at this time when the nation and workers are recuperating from the effect of COVID-19 is not advisable. Such decision of the NLC at this time will only rescind and regress us as a nation.
Methinks it is high time we put a final stop to the unending clamour for subsidy removal by the government a perceive resultant effect of the deregulation of the down stream sector, it is recall-able that the immediate past president had assured that the subsidy will be removed someday.
I am sure the government has factored the rejection of the masses to their plan when it was decided and true to their prediction Nigerian Labour and civil societies seems to be falling for it, it is high time we disappoint the government and refocused our energy to requesting for the re- appropriation of the differential of the amount saved from the subsidy removal to the use of public interest and demand for accountability and equity.
I am, therefore, going to suggest renegotiation with the government that would help cushion and absorb whatever effects that could accompany deregulation.
For instance, the Labour congresses could re-engage the government to review the minimum wage of the Nigerian workers which has become grossly inadequate and inappropriate to the economic realities, advice government on palliatives for workers and the Nigerian masses like tax relief and massive investment in health facilities and provision of health insurance for the poor, and effective distribution in subvention or some other forms so as to salvage and ameliorate the situation.
I call on NLC/TUC to commence proper negotiations with the government.
– Dr David Kayode Ehindero is a Public Affairs analyst and Lead Strategist of The Nigerian Workforce Strategy and Enlightenment Centre (NIWOSEC)