The Labour Civil Society Situation Room on COVID-19 has criticised the arbitrary deduction in the salaries and pension of workers and pensioners by the Kaduna State Government and other States.
Ayuba Wabba, President, Nigeria Labour Congress and Chairman of the Labour Civil Society Situation Room, said this in a communiqué issued at the end of a meeting on Thursday in Abuja.
The meeting was held to review the recent developments pertaining to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on the economic front.
Wabba said the Labour Civil Society Situation Room reviewed the decision by the Kaduna State Government and a few other states to deduct the salaries of workers in their states, including healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 challenge.
He said: “Even worse is the threat by Governor Nasir El-Rufai to sack affected workers if they go on strike.
“This anti-worker practice championed by the Kaduna State government violates the fundamental principles and rights at work.
“These principles and rights are key components of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) global labour standards and are also codified in our laws.
“The infringement of these rights is a crude abuse of power and akin to modern day slavery.
“Wages are binding contracts which cannot be unilaterally or arbitrarily reviewed. It is unfortunate that while some states are giving incentives to workers at this time of grave health emergency, in line with global trend.
“The Kaduna State Government is taking away from workers and pensioners. This is nothing but a full-blown industrial tyranny.”
Wabba said the situation room was behind the ultimatum by workers in the affected states for a reversal of the unjust decision, adding that it fully stands by workers’ resolve to embark on strike, if their demands were not met.
He said the Labour Civil Society Situation Room demanded that the state governments must reciprocate Federal Government’s gesture in granting moratorium on repayment of budget support palliatives by paying workers and pensioners their full entitlements.
He said: “We also renew our calls for investigation on how states used the palliatives and Paris Club refunds.
“We demand that private sector employers should stop the retrenchment of workers in the guise of COVID-19 as such moves would only impair efforts geared at economic revitalisation.”
Wabba said the Labour Civil Society Situation Room applauded the Federal Government for reversing the directive by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to place workers on half salaries based on the claims of shortfall in revenue owing to COVID-19.
He added: “This is the way to go for all employers in the public and private sectors in order to protect the livelihood and dignity of workers.
“The continued incidence of job losses, income deprivation and denial of the means of livelihood for workers by some employers in Nigeria on the excuse of COVID-19 is a source of worry to us.”
The NLC president therefore said that Labour Civil Society Situation Room recommended that for immediate term, governments should adopt a measured approach to the fallout of COVID-19.
Wabba said government should not cut down on budgetary allocations to education, health, agriculture and infrastructure as these sectors were critical for the needed economic rebound and growth.
He also said government should unfreeze the embargo on public sector jobs, adding that hike in user access charges on public utilities should be shelved for the next six months.
He said: “Given the abuse of security votes by many political office holders, we call for the scrapping of security votes from public budgeting in Nigeria.
“We call on political office holders to reduce their salaries and allowances in order to free up finances for other areas of national developmental needs.
“We also call for an end to medical and education tourism for elected public officials and their families.
“We call for an immediate stop to the practice of borrowing to finance consumption.
“We call for foreign loans where necessary to be tied exclusively to capital projects with feasible income and debt repayment potentials cum projections.”
Wabba also called for accelerated disbursement of palliatives and loans to workers in the informal sector.
He said this should be transparent, inclusive and monitored by mass-based groups, adding that the conditions for access to the loans should be minimal to deepen access.
Wabba said the Labour Civil Society Situation Room also recommended that the budgetary and planning process in Nigeria should be overhauled to become more socially inclusive, citizens-centred, value objective and reflective of real national developmental needs.
He said: “We call on the National Assembly to set in motion legislative processes to deliver the promises of Chapter Two of Nigeria’s Constitution.
“On the budget process, we must cut our cloth according to our materials. We must discard the use of assumptive and deficit budgets that cannot be funded by available resources and heavily dependent on local and foreign loans especially for recurrent expenditure.
“We call for the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex, proper governance for our solid minerals sector, revival of moribund textile factories and other manufacturing concerns as a demonstration of our commitment to economic diversification.”
Wabba said the Labour Civil Society Situation Room reiterates its commitment to defend jobs, wages and livelihoods.
He added that all interventions in this crisis must be geared at enhancing productivity, stimulating economic growth, promoting diversification of the economy and mobilising and empowering national productive forces.