Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has started mobilising its affiliate unions and civil society organisations to join the strike in Kaduna State, scheduled to commence midnight Sunday, May 16.
NLC had threatened to mobilise workers in both public and private sectors to shut down economic activities in the state over what it described as obnoxious anti-worker policies: arbitrary and illegal declaration of redundancies; premature compulsory retirement of all officers on grade levels 14 and above, by the state government.
In a circular issued by its acting General Secretary, Ishmail Bello, NLC instructed the leadership of all its affiliate unions to ensure that the strike commences from midnight, Sunday, May 16.
“We write to communicate to all affiliate unions of the NLC to fully mobilise all their members in Kaduna to a complete and indefinite withdrawal of services until a counter directive is issued by the leadership.”
The circular also urged allies and affiliate unions in neighbouring states to mobilise to Kaduna to support the strike.
Already, one of the allies, the Centre for Labour Studies (CLS) has offered to give total support for the planned shutdown of economic activities in Kaduna State
A statement signed by its Director, Femi Aborisade said that other unions, including the Trade Union Congress (TUC), should unite and join forces with the NLC to defeat the unitary ideology in industrial relations being spearheaded by the Kaduna State government.
“We call on all trade unions and pro-labour civil society and human rights organisations to join forces with the NLC in its just strike in Kaduna State against the following obnoxious anti-worker policies: arbitrary and illegal declaration of redundancies; premature compulsory retirement of all officers on grade levels 14 and above, officers who are 50 years and above, and officers who have been in service for 30 years or more; conversion of permanent employees on grade levels 1-6 to casual workers status and stoppage of pension for pensioners who have earned pension for 5 to 10 years but have refused to die,” the statement said.
The centre said that the right to pension “is a constitutionally guaranteed right,” which is also guaranteed in the civil and public service rules in Kaduna State.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, Rule 02809 of the Kaduna State Government Public Service Rules (2005) and Part II, Regulation 10(3)(c) at page 34 of the Unified Local Government Service Staff Regulations (2012), provide that the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the service shall be 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier,” it said.
The Centre further said that the phenomenon of physical insecurity involving bloodshed, killings, abductions, kidnappings, insurgency, and terrorism in Kaduna State is related to economic insecurity.
According to CLS, Kaduna State has become one of the most dangerous states to visit, work or live. “This is because of massive layoffs which the state government started in 2016/2017 when about 22,000 teachers, 8,000 workers in MDAs (Ministries, Departments, and Agencies), 800 workers in the state’s Internal Revenue Service Dept, and over 4,000 local government workers were laid off.
CLS adds: “This year, according to the NLC, the state government has disengaged 6,000 workers, including local government and primary health care workers. Eleven thousand (11,000) workers have been short-listed for disengagement on account of being in service for 30 years and above and/or being on level 14 and above.”
CLS urged other unions, including the TUC, to unite and join forces with the NLC to defeat the unitary ideology in industrial relations and the vicious war on workers’ rights being waged by the Kaduna State government, “otherwise, other state governments would emulate the draconian and wicked labour policies and practices in Kaduna State, and workers’ rights in other states nationally would come under severe threat.”
Officials of the Kaduna State Government were not available for reactions to the strike starting next Monday, but the government has persistently defended the ongoing rationalization in the civil service, citing bloated wage bill, redundant staff and dwindling revenue.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai said a significant amount of the statutory federal allocations to the state “is being spent on the wages of public servants.”
He said the decision to shed weight in the civil service was one of the necessary moves to salvage the state’s finances.
El-rufai adds: “Therefore, the state government has no choice but to shed some weight and reduce the size of the public service. It is a painful but necessary step to take, for the sake of the majority of the people of this state. The public service of the state with less than 100,000 employees and their families cannot be consuming more than 90% of government resources, with little left to positively impact the lives of the more than 9 million that are not political appointees or civil servants. It is gross injustice for such a micro minority to consume the majority of the resources of the state.”
He promised to work with the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAS) to expedite payments of the contributory pension benefits to cushion the effect of the disengagement.
El-Rufai also vowed to give “preferential treatment to those disengaged that are willing to take advantage of the state government’s various agricultural and entrepreneurship development schemes.”
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja