Former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has charged the current leadership of the Congress under Comrade Joe Ajaero, to protect, defend and keep the fighting spirit of the labour movement high in order to defend the rights and interests of workers and Nigerians.
He added that the unity of the labour movement and its fighting spirit is not to be sacrificed for the pleasure of any government but to better the living condition of workers and citizens.
“The unity of the labour movement is not at the pleasure of the government of the day. So protect the movement, defend its honour and uphold what you stand for. Please keep the fighting spirit of our labour movement going. Deal with the big issues. When you are on the side of the people, you cannot fall.”
Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo State and current Senator-elect, went on to say that it is workers’ birthright to talk politics and be involved in its activities because politics involve decisions and polices that affect workers and their families.
“It is our (workers) birthright to talk about politics. We produce the wealth of the nation and politics is about appropriating the fruits of the economy we drive.”
He further pledged to support the labour movement in the Red Chamber. His words; “I use this opportunity to assure that with me in the Senate though I have only one vote, I cannot be a party to any anti-labour law. I cannot be a party to any law that is meant to weaken, undermine or do any of those things that will revise the gains of the labour movement. I will rather be a one-man-squad.”
The Senator-elect, said this at a ground reception held in honor of Comrade Ajaero by his media colleagues in Abuja, over the weekend, where he hinted that the NLC president position is very challenging and demanding.
He then went on to say; “The only organization I know is accountable, truly independent of government whether government at home or abroad, that doesn’t seek headline in order to attract dollars, that collect union dues and run its affairs on the basis and wishes of its people is the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress.
“So you represent the rest of society, the burden you carry goes beyond those who earn wages. And the issues you canvass affects every one who labour to earn. You represent the aspirations of those forgotten majority of our people in the rural communities who have no voice but whose children are working in factories, offices, oil sector and the most hazardous places of work to get the Nigeria industrial will going inspite of all the disincentives, harassment and all the challenges of earning such environment.
“So to be elected as president of NLC at this time, I commiserate with you not congratulation. Because people see the glamour of the office but they don’t understand what it takes to mobilize people to fight for the right of workers and Nigerians by extension. They don’t understand what it take to persuade colleagues to believe in a course or get them to do what they have to do for the citizens to drink cold water while you eat criticisms, name-calling.”
In his response, Comrade Ajaero said; “The present NLC will not disappoint past labour leaders, workers and Nigerians. We are encouraged. We are revitalized. We have started the work we pledged to do and the state is fighting back. We will try our best to do the right thing as we go on.
“We are not people who take action against government or any body without cause. We usually inform government our displeasure or disagreement and also seek to discuss and resolve before the last resort; protesting or strike. And we usually make our plans known to the public before we do anything. But some people have started to do cheap blackmail against us.
“They say labour want to stop inauguration, saying all sorts of things. That is madness. Why would we do that. Labour unions don’t take action without proper discussion. If anything, what we plan is to give the incoming government our charter of demand.
“Let me also say this now, the incoming administration will have a lot of labour challenges because there is no industrial issue that was concluded by the outgone government. They succeeded in apprehending the issues according to Senator Chris Ngige, the outgone minister of labour. Apprehending an industrial issue is not the same thing as resolving it.
“From SSANU and ASUU issue, doctors, health workers, electricity and all over. So I pray the incoming administration get the right people to address the impending labour issues so that we can harmoniously progress our country.”
On fuel subsidy issue, Comrade Ajaero said; “NLC still insist on an alternative before anything fuel subsidy removal take place. We will continue to engage government but we will equally not allow further suffering of Nigerians in the name of fuel subsidy removal.
“If government has been preparing for the removal of fuel subsidy for years but has not made arrangements for alternative, then there is a problem. If subsidy mean that we export crude at N5,000 and then import fuel and other products at N10,000, there is indeed a problem. Because it seems the government is using the fuel subsidy removal to threaten workers but we will not succumb to that.”