23 July 2006
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) strongly frowns at the half-hearted approach of the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to the issue of the proposed retrenchment of 33, 000 workers by the Federal Government. We call for a sincere and unalloyed commitment of the Labour leadership to the defence of rights and interests of Nigerian workers which is the primary essence of the NLC’s existence.
It is appalling that instead of unequivocally opposing the unjust imminent action of the government against workers, the NLC leadership has given what is tantamount to leeway to government to sack the concerned workers. In his letter to President Obasanjo on behalf of the NLC, dated July 17, 2006 and posted on the NLC website, Adams Oshiomhole, the Congress President wrote, inter alia, “However, if at the end of the day and after due process, retrenchment becomes inevitably, may I respectfully urge a phased approach instead of the one-stage arrangement enunciated by the government.”
This unfortunate position of the NLC indicates that the Congress supports in principle the proposed sack, but that its only grouse is that the action is to be carried out in one fell swoop. The CDWR strongly avers that this position of the NLC is unprincipled and against the very tenet of workers solidarity. An injury to one is injury to all, goes a popular labour chant. Even if it is a few workers that have been penciled down for sack, the labour should stoutly and unconditionally oppose it. Moreover, the labour leadership ought to have realized from experience that the so-called due process of Obasanjo government is phantom and a mere justification for a premeditated agenda.
This position of the NLC also shows it has done its best by giving a mere verbal support to the Joint National Public Negotiating Council, the representative organ of the unions in public service. It would not have even raised a finger if government, in the first place, had planned to sack the 33, 000 workers in batches.
Similarly, Adams Oshiomhole was quoted in the Guardian, July 18, 2006 to have stated at a press briefing, “But I must point that it will be totally irresponsible of us to shut down the entire nation, simply because an employer, in this case, the Federal Government, has decided not to treat its workers justly as stated by the law of the land”. This bluntly means telling the government that the NLC would not call for a solidarity strike action in defence of the workers proposed for mass sack even if the government goes ahead to sack them at once instead in batches as advocated by the NLC leadership. This is to us an unacceptable and unprincipled position.
We, instead, reiterate our call on the leadership of NLC and other federating bodies like TUC and CFTU to give unconditional, full support to the public service workers and their unions in their battle to save jobs WITH CONCRETE SOLIDARITY ACTION. We assert that there could not be justification to even throwing out just a worker in a country where the labour market is already over-saturated despite the fact that the country swims in petro-dollar (or Naira). As the government has said this proposed mass retrenchment is in line with its hated anti-poor neo-liberal reforms. We thus call on the labour, civil society and pro-masses organisations/parties to organise and fight to defeat the planned sack and all neo-liberal policies of the regime.