Solidarity Message by Organized Labour in Cross River State To Nigerian Workers in Commemoration of the 2021 International Workers’ Day (May Day)
Gentlemen of the Press, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Labour veterans here present, Comrades, I bring you warm felicitations from the State Councils of the TUC and NLC on the occasion of this 2021 International Workers’ Day known popularly as May Day.
Comrades, the International Workers’ Day is a day of fanfare, joy laughter and celebration for workers and working people across the world. It is a day set aside to celebrate working people. In 2020, as you are all aware, the Covid-19 pandemic which held the entire world to ransom putting an end to economic and social activities made the May Day celebration impossible.
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, today we should have been celebrating in our traditional fashion, but here we are, gloomy, sad helpless, hopeless, desperate and utterly flummoxed at the way things have turn against the workers of this State.
The theme for this year’s May Day is Covid-19, Social and Economic Crises: Challenges for Decent Jobs, Social Protection and People’s Welfare. Covid-19 has upended the world and the ways we lived our lives. For us in Africa and Nigeria in particular, we may not have been directly impacted as the Western World but the economic reverberations of the pandemic are here with us. With massive loss of jobs in the various sectors of our economy, the country is facing a serious economic crunch. The chickens have come home to roost.
NLC Chairman’s Kidnap
Comrades, as you may already know, the State NLC Chairman, Comrade Ben Ukpepi was kidnapped on the 21st March, 2021 from the Civil Servants Estate in Akpabuyo by a cruel and unrepentant gang of perfidious criminals. The NLC Chairman, a man with a humble mien, who put the welfare of others before his own, a man who cannot hurt a fly has been in the hands of his abductors for more than one month now.
The Labour Movement in the State was dealt a deadly blow on that fateful day and here we are sorrowing instead of celebrating agonizing and praying that wherever the evil men have taken him, he is safe.
I want to use this occasion and in this very somber mood to charge the Government and the security agencies to do all that is necessary to ensure the safe return of our Comrade the NLC Chairman.
Furthermore, while we commend the achievements of Operation Akpakwu in stemming the rate of kidnapping and other criminal acts in Calabar metropolis, we call for the extension of their operations to Akpabuyo, Bakassi and environs as these criminal elements have made these places their haven. We equally call on the State Government to do more in the security of lives and properties of the citizenry as this remains the cardinal obligation of Government.
Payment of Gratuities to Retirees
Comrades, as you know, gratuity which is the legal entitlement to every retiree from the State service has remained unpaid from 2014 to date in the State Service and 2012 to date in the Local Government.
We find this situation quite appalling and therefore unacceptable. Retired civil servants are dying in their numbers from preventable causes by reason of the penurious situation they been have thrown into due to non-payment of gratuities.
Comrades, we use this auspicious occasion to call on the State Government to pay the outstanding gratuities to retirees.
Suspension of Automatic Transition to Pension Payroll
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, as if the nonpayment of gratuities was not calamitous enough, this government has also suspended the automatic transition from salary payment to pension payroll from October, 2020.
This was a seamless system which ensured that retirees are not exposed to the vagaries of instant poverty on retirement. This action by the government is like putting the final nail on the coffin of retirees.
All appeals to have this obnoxious policy reversed have so far been unsuccessful and retired civil servants from this period are paying the price for this pernicious and inhuman policy. We appeal to the Cross River State Government to restore this system that has served this State so well for so many years. There is no sense in compounding the woes of retirees.
Implementation of Promotion
It is rather unfortunate that four years after promotion letters were issued to civil servants, same cannot be implemented. As Labour we deplore this strange system which has killed the morale of civil servants. It is also unfortunate that the entire reward system in the civil has been completely eroded.
We equally appeal to His Excellency, Governor Ben Ayade to approve the implementation of these promotions.
Payment of the Balance of National Minimum Wage
Minimum wage MOU signed in February, 2020 stipulated that the shortfall in the negotiated percentages of the consequential adjustment will be paid in January, 2021. We appeal that this be done to avert unnecessary crises.
Remittances of Deductions from Workers’ Salaries to Beneficiaries
Comrades, it may interest you to know that Government is owing check-off dues/deductions made from salaries of workers in Cross River State for Four (4) months now and not paid. The deductions we are talking about covers January, February, March and April, 2021. We want to use this medium to appeal to Government to release all outstanding deductions to beneficiaries.
Financial Autonomy for the Judiciary and Legislature:
Comrades, as you are aware, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) are currently on strike over the issue of financial autonomy. Is it not strange that the other two arms of government are still going cap in hand to the Executive to beg for what the constitution has granted them. What a farcical system.
We appeal to His Excellency, the digital Governor to grant the financial autonomy for the Judiciary and Legislature to actually sign post the separation of Powers which is the hallmark of all democracies.
Ban on Payment of Union Dues by Commercial Drivers and Tricycle Operators:
Comrades, our affiliates, NURTW and TOAN are being deprived of their legitimate check- off dues by the activities of the anti-tax agency. While the policy of not taxing the low income earners is commendable and applauded by Labour, Union dues which are legal payments do not form part of tax, which is a government revenue.
We view this stance of the anti-tax agency against NURTW and TOAN as a deliberate attempt to deny the Union of funds and make them incapable of meeting their obligations. We appeal to His Excellency, the Governor to direct the agency to separate, taxes from union dues and allow the unions to operate and collect their dues from their members.
Return of Motor Parks to NURTW.
It is rather unfortunate that, this issue has become a recurring request in our May Days over the years. The NURTW is the legally known body to manage motor parks. That is the case all over the States in Nigeria, except in Cross River State.
Return of weigh-in allowances to radio, television, theater arts and Paper Printing Workers in the State.
Comrades, you will agree with us that the Cross River State Government has failed to pay the statutory weigh-in allowances to these of workers in the State. We therefore use this medium to appeal to the government of Cross River State to do the needful in this regard.
Once again, we use this platform to request His Excellency, to reconsider the stance of government on this matter and return the motor parks to NURTW.
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in no mood for celebration, we have been dealt a heavy blow and may be down, but I want to assure all civil/public servants that, we are not out.
Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning, so says the wise book.
As Organized Labour, we have agreed that the struggle continues. All the litany of issues enumerated above must be addressed by this government. We shall not rest on our oars until this is achieved.
Once again, I welcome you all to this Freedom Park in marking the 2021 Workers’ Day.
Long Live the TUC
Long Live NLC
Long the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Sir (Com.) Monday U. Ogbodum KSJI Chairman, TỤC
Com. Lawrence Achuta, Esq.
Vice Chairman, NLC
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