Oyo, Osun Workers Embark on Strike

As the economic hardship caused by unpaid salaries bites harder, labour unions in Oyo and Osun states have directed their members to embark on an indefinite strike action in order to press home demands for the payment of owed salary arrears.

Jacob Adekomi, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Osun State, while addressing a news conference in Osogbo, on Monday, called on workers to begin a strike action on Tuesday after the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum issued to the state government.

Adekomi, who read from a text said, “That the 14-day ultimatum issued to the government expired today (Monday, May 25, 2015). That an indefinite strike action be commenced by all the workers in the State of Osun as from Tuesday, May 26, 2015 due to the failure of the government to accede to our legitimate demands, as contained in our letter to the government dated May 12, 2015.

“The indefinite strike action will be total. Workers are advised to stay at home while pressing home our demands. That no worker should resume work until an announcement is made by the labour bodies to that effect,” the statement read.

The labour union leader said that apart from the salary issue, the state government had failed to remit the contributory pension deductions from workers’ salaries to their respective retirement saving accounts.

A factional state Chairman of the NLC, Gambi Yusuf, when contacted said his faction was in support of the strike action since it was aimed at fighting for the right of the entire workers in the state.

“I am in support of it provided it is to fight for the welfare of workers. It is okay by me. But these are the same set of people who said before that the government did not owe them,” Yusuff said.

In the meantime, the state Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, has appealed to the striking workers to show understanding with the state government on the issues.

Speaking through his media aide, Semiu Okanlawon, the governor said he had tried to ensure a prompt payment of workers’ salaries despite the decline in allocation to the state before the issue degenerated.

“At the heart of all these issues being raised is insufficient fund. And regardless of the terrible revenue crisis that has led us to this state as a country, we must bear in mind the very prudent manner the Aregbesola’s government has managed the affairs of Osun.

“Therefore, workers can be certain that once the revenue complications are solved, all these issues will vanish. And as a responsible government, we still appeal to workers to show understanding – bearing in mind that at times when even other states had started experiencing delays, Osun used all it had to ensure workers did not feel the pang of the national revenue crisis.”

Other unions present at the news conference included the NLC, Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Nigeria Senior Civil Service Union and the Nigeria Union of Journalists, among others.

The Oyo State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday said that in line with the directive of the national leaders of NLC, all workers in the state should begin an indefinite strike on Tuesday (today).

Chairman of the union in the state, Waheed Olojede, stated after a meeting of the state executive that the action became necessary after the state government owed months of workers’ salaries and retirees’ pensions.

Olojede revealed however that the state council had been in negotiation with the state government for some months on the issue and that an agreement had yet to be reached when the national body of the NLC directed that the strike should commence.

“You are all aware sufficiently that in the last few months in Nigeria, many state governments have owed salaries and pensions of their workers. Oyo State is one of those states. In the last few months, we have commenced negotiation with the state government on how best to pay outstanding salaries and pensions of the workers and retirees.

“We were on the process until last Friday when the national headquarters of the NLC issued a directive, instructing all state councils of NLC where governments are owing salaries and pensions to begin industrial action as from today, Monday 25, 2015. We have got in touch with the national leadership of the NLC to make clarification on the action.

“Even when we notified them that the state NLC had commenced negotiation with the state government, the directive from the national headquarters insisted that notwithstanding our local arrangement, we must comply and begin industrial action. Because of this and the fact that no state council has the power to defy the authority of the national NLC, we immediately called a meeting of the state executive to review the directive and our process of negotiation.

“We therefore resolve that because of the law that established the NLC, no state congress is higher than the national body. Arising from this position, we have therefore resolved that we are left with no other option but to direct all workers in Oyo State to respect the national directive and stay at home from Tuesday (today),” Olojede said.

While expressing the optimism that the negotiation with the state would still resolve the issue, Olojede called on the state government not to abandon the negotiation, adding that as soon as a resolution was reached, the state council would approach the national headquarters of the NLC with a view to getting the permission for the workers to resume work.

“We appeal to the state government to show understanding on this directive. The only condition that can make us appear before the leadership of NLC is to have with us a mutually agreed Memorandum of Understanding spelling out how best and quickly salary and pension arrears can be paid and how the state will continue to pay them promptly,” he added.

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