The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Obafemi Awolowo University Branch, have accused the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and the United Labour Congress (ULC) of constituting clog on the wheel of workers liberation in Nigeria. The groups in a statement by Adabale Olamide, former General Secretary and Coordinator of both the DSM and ERC, OAU, Ife, Osun State, contended that leaders of the respective workers unions devote more energy to power tussle than to pursuit of the welfare of the workers they represent.
Olamide expressed dismay that the prevailing mirage of socio-political and economic quagmires precipitate the anticipation that the existence of the trade unions would have culminated in the betterment of the well-being of the citizens from the roles of this unions. He remarked that workers are faced with avalanche of crises beyond measures which in the ultimate denouement resulted to loss of lives of many, some suffering from severe illness, amidst other hardships.
The group relegated repetitive blame on government to secondary importance, noting that such blame is already an established fact that is visible to the blind and likewise audible to the deaf that the government does really place primacy on the welfare of the citizens. It decried that this is a principle of capitalism. Olamide, therefore, contended that, “it can never be in the agenda of the oppressors to deliberate on the liberation of the oppressed;” adding that, “freedom is not voluntarily given up by the oppressor; it has to be demanded by the oppressed.”
Olamide expressed pessimism over the axiom that the NLC and TUC represent mass workers unions with the fundamental aim of protecting the collective interests of the members and the masses at large. He bemoaned the division in the labour movement.
He observed that the factionalization of the NLC in the 2015 during its National Convention which eventually led to the formation of United Labour Congress (the Joe Ajaero faction of NLC) is a bad omen. “Obviously, both factions, on principle, are not distinct from each other in terms of not truly taking practical and genuine actions in the defense of the interest of their members,” Olamide remarked.
It was recalled that in 2011, the NLC as a result of the position of its members demanded an increase of N52, 200 as the minimum wage as a proposal to the government but after series of negotiations, 18,000 naira was agreed upon.
“Worthy to note, this concession was never achieved on a platter of gold but through consistent struggle of the workers which was a sacrifice in a way. But ironically, upon such concrete agreement, the agreement was not fully implemented as virtually all the states’ governments could not comply with this agreement.
“One would have also expected that the NLC should have taken up this to a logical conclusion, but sardonically, nothing of such was the case.
“As of present, the 18,000 minimum wage has extremely fallen short of the astronomical level of inflation, thus the demand for N56,000 minimum wage is long overdue,” he highlighted.
Olamide also emphasized that the role played by the NLC in 2012 against the removal of fuel subsidy by the Jonathan administration cannot also be forgotten in the history of the country.
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“It was a clear perfidious and self-centered capitulation against the interest of the mass of people. Unarguably, the protest was one of the massive protests ever witnessed and recorded in the history of the country.
“But NLC and the TUC in their usual manner betrayed this struggle. This action has further caused excruciation in the welfare and all other aspects of the people’s life as untold hardship is being inflicted on the people. To exhaust discussion on the number of time the labour leaders have betrayed the masses will definitely be an endless mission.
“That of the last increment in the petroleum price under the “anti-corrupt” leadership of
Muhammadu Buhari cannot because of its magnitude likewise left unmentioned. The resultant effect of this anti-masses policy of Buhari has further escalated the suffering of the masses,” Olamide lamented.
The former Secretary-General protested that the present form of suffering of the workers who are being owed backlog of salaries, allowances, pensions, even gratuities which the NLC has done very little or practically nothing in this vein. He maintained that the government does not mean well for the people; advocating that, “it is then the responsibility of the people to reject these anti-masses policies.”
Olamide reiterated that the leadership of both labour and trade unions have wrecked avalanche of havocs on workers through their sinister collaboration with the government. “Workers should not be deceived by radical sounding phrases and declarations of their leaders rather genuine leadership should be confirmed by the practical and progressive actions and deeds towards the general liberation of the working people,” he cautioned. He stated that a situation where the leadership persists consciously to play either overtly or covertly anti-workers role, such leadership must be exposed, discredited and expelled for the progress of the movement.