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At the expiration of the 7-day ultimatum given to the Ogun State Government, a Workers’ Congress/Parliament was held at the Arcade Ground, Government Secretariat, on 27th June, 2022 where an indefinite strike action was declared, commencing on Tuesday, 28th June, 2022. Before the commencement of the strike, the representatives of the Ogun State Government led by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) invited the leadership of Organized Labour and appealed to extend the ultimatum by a week so as to allow the government to adequately address workers’ demands but the leadership said there was no going back on the industrial dispute. We therefore demanded that we wanted to meet His Excellency, the Governor of Ogun State who has the mandate to solve workers’ challenges. As a result, a meeting was fixed between the leadership of Organized Labour and His Excellency for Wednesday 29th July 2022 at noon.
Even though two of the three leaders were sick and needed medical attention and another one was to attend to a national issue in Ibadan and Abuja that same day, the three of the leaders still attended the parley with His Excellency, we were joined by Secretaries of JNC and TUC and the State Chairman of NUT. We were also accompanied to the Governor’s office for the meeting by many Chairmen and Secretaries of Unions in Public Service who waited outside giving us the solidarity. The Ogun Labour Media was also there to relay what was happening. The government side was represented by Her Excellency, the Deputy Governor, the SSG, the Head of Service (HoS), former Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Finance.
Before the commencement of the meeting, the spokesperson of the Organized Labour appealed to His Excellency to let us increase the number of Organized Labour representatives so as to accommodate other affiliate unions. His Excellency rejected the appeal because the meeting was held in his office and not a Conference Room that could accommodate many people but he allowed us to make any replacement if it was compulsory for some groups to be there. This was where the misunderstanding and politics in the Labour movement began because those leaders that were not inside believed they were systematically avoided, as a result, they would fault the outcome of the meeting.
And again, it was rumoured that whilst the meeting was going on, many ‘Ghana must go’ came in loaded, and came out empty, and it must have been emptied for the six leaders that went in. Where on earth?
I think we should rise above mundane reasoning and raise the labour bar. If we don’t represent ourselves well, we stand the risk of being misrepresented. People are fast at casting aspersion and cooking up stories and lies when in actual facts, they have mischief at the back of their mind.
The leadership of labour in Ogun State is made up of men and women of nobility, integrity, advanced knowledge and the uncommon ability to say ‘NO’ to shady dealings. We would never sell our conscience nor compromise our rights and privileges. I make it bold that, up till now, no labour leader has taken bottled water from Government, let alone got an envelope. Posterity will judge all.
At the meeting, His Excellency expressed his displeasure that the strike was illegal because we did not give the government mandatory 21 days’ notice so that government will prepare adequately to avert the strike. He informed us that when he was in the private system, he was the Chairman of a downstream sector in the oil industry, they would only go on strike when they felt the government was taking them for granted and they would never disallow any tanker from loading. He counselled that we should not allow anybody to use us against the government we all put in place. He reminded us that we had states in the Federation that their workers were being owned six, seven months of unpaid salaries among deductions and other entitlements, some have not commenced the payment of minimum wage while that of Ogun State is one of the best if not best; the Organized Labour in those states did not go on strike, so, why in Ogun State? He said he would never copy those states in doing that because we are in Ogun State.
The leadership apologized, on behalf of public servants, to the government for any wrong done during the workers’ congress, it was as a result of the communication gap between Labour and government. The anger was aggravated as a result of the staggered payment of May Salary which the government could not communicate the reason for such payment to the public servants. We reiterated that we were not sponsored by any opposition but only demanded the rights of public servants.
*On workers’ demand, His Excellency offered to commence payment of Gross Salary effective July 2022. With the commencement of payment of Gross Salary, all associated issues on deductions would be solved.
We are to note that the public servants witnessed the payment of gross salary only during Governor Gbenga Daniel’s Administration.
*On unremitted 21 months deductions, His Excellency offered to commence offsetting the outstanding deductions by releasing 1.5billion naira in the next 30days whilst the balance of 5.2billion naira is spread across 6 months not later than 31st Dec. 2022.
*On Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), His Excellency committed to offsetting the backlog with immediate harmonization of the debt whilst an ad-hoc committee is set up within 2 weeks to work out modalities and make recommendations to the government.
*On Consequential Adjustment on Pensions, the government offered to find lasting solutions to it by setting up an ad-hoc committee within 2 weeks comprising the Government, Nigeria Union of Pensioners and the Labour to make recommendations to the government. The government showed commitment towards retirees in the state and believed something must be done on minimum pension.
*On payment of Gratuity, His Excellency offered to upwardly increase the quarterly release of 500million naira with effect from the third quarter of 2022.
*On Leave Allowance, His Excellency offered to implement harmonization of leave allowance alongside monthly salary as being done for Federal workers and in Lagos State. The government committed to setting up a committee to work out the overall financial implication.
*On the conduct of the 2021 and 2022 promotion exercise, His Excellency committed to looking into this at the next scheduled meeting with the Organized Labour as the periodic meeting is to be conveyed to ensure constant evaluation and assessment of all matters.
These were the offers the leadership took to other leaders waiting for us at the NLC secretariat on Wed. 29th June, but Alas, it was criticism upon criticism because of the rumour that flew while we were in the meeting.
On the second day, Thursday, 30th June 2022 when the meeting continued, we had to expand the representatives of Labour to include Chairmen of other Unions, – NULGE, NANNM, SSACGOC, NUAAE, MHWUN, to see areas where they could challenge the offer.
On listening to Government side, they had no options but to agree that these were the best offer we could get from government for now.
We agreed that the offer should be signed on Friday, 1st July, when the NLC Chairman would be around and convey a congress at the NLC secretariat by 2 pm.
This we fulfilled on Friday by signing and conveying a Parliament/Congress of workers as promised.
It was regrettable that the parliament turned into chaos, we could not identify the real public servants from the crowd. While the leadership was inside discussing the mode of the congress, pandemonium broke out because of baseless allegations and rumours going around, doors were forced open, property was damaged and the NLC Chairman was forced to address the crowd. I was there in the secretariat to hibernate somewhere because of my health and I was advised to take cover before the NLC Chairman joined me to escape from the secretariat.
In this 21st century, it is no longer fashionable to bang the table in an attempt to make realizable our demands. We should evolve more efficient and effective means of relating with ourselves before resorting to confrontation as the last option.
It is highly regrettable that we lost Comrade Sunday Ogunjimi, a member of the Nigeria Union of Teachers who slumped while running up and down. May his soul rest in perfect peace. May God protect and comfort the family he left behind. I appeal to all schools to please observe a minute silence at the assembly ground tomorrow morning in honour of the deceased.
It was as a result of Memorandum of Action (MoA) reached between the Labour and Government, after series of meetings and negotiations that the leadership, through a press release, suspended the strike and enjoined workers to resume at their duty posts immediately.
It was the same Memorandum of Understanding that were reached in Sept. 2019 that made government to commence payment of minimum wage, start releasing quarterly 500million to retirees and conduct 2018, 2019 and 2020 promotion exercise.
You would recall that, His Excellency made the promise in Nov. 2020 that the financial obligations for 2018, 2019 and 2020 would be released to public servants in Jan, March and June 2022 respectively. These have also come to pass.
We only suspended the strike and not called it off, in case government reneges on the MoA, then we will immediately resume the strike.
We solicit your support, cooperation and commitment in order for us to get our rights and privileges from government. We are poised to continue to reconfigure the Organized Labour to the envy and admiration of everyone within and outside the labour movement.
We shall deploy all legal and constitutional means of getting for our people all rights, privileges and benefits that have been unjustly delayed and nearly denied us by successive administrations in the state.
Comrade Akeem Lasisi