Â By Shola AmodemajaÂ
Rising from its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in lagos at the weekend, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) under the leadership of Comrade Ayuba Wabba,
has advised the federal government to take critical reflationary measures that will stimulate the economy through job creation and empowering the workers in order to safeguard the ailing economy.
In a communiquÃ© issued at the end of the NEC, the congress noted that a combination of the after-effect of years of fiscal indiscipline, mismanagement of resources, unacceptable electioneering spending, corruption, policy reversals, unproductive borrowing, falling crude oil prices and serious issues of internal security has dealt a blow to the economy. Inflation is needling double digit.Â Â Adding the Naira has collapsed against the major international currencies. As an import-dependent country, the implications for the ordinary Nigerian are enormous. The cost of living has risen, the purchasing power has dropped and jobs are being lost.
Observing that in most states, salaries and pensions are not being paid regularly in spite of the well-thought-out bail-out fund program by the federal government, which has thrown workers and their families into great hardship and embarrassment.
NLC therefore noted that as a response to this economic downturn, the IMF, World Bank and neo-liberal Economists are putting pressure on the government to further devalue the Naira as well as raise the VAT.Â Â Governors and some private-sector employers on their part are considering mass retrenchment with Imo state leading the negative way.
NLC stated â€œCongress believes that neither non-payment of salaries nor mass retrenchment is an acceptable option in the circumstance. Congress holds the view that at difficult moments like this, reflationary measures should be adopted to empower workers and stimulate the economy.
It then urged government to take measures that will stimulate production, develop infrastructure and boost aggregate demand. Congress urged government to take urgent steps to diversify the economy with an emphasis on agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing.
Speaking further, NLC President said the incidence of non-regular payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities is acquiring an alarming dimension states increasingly are showing an unwillingness to pay salaries, pensions and gratuities. Congress is worried that governors are singling out workers for punishment in the circumstance of economic downturn while it is rewarding political appointees even when the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission has declared such payments as illegal.
Accordingly, Congress urged governors and private sector employers to toe the path of honour and not retrench workers. It urged governors to do all that is necessary to pay salaries and pensions regularly as non-payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities will be catastrophic not just for workers and their families but the entire country.
It resolved that any state governor who violates the sacred duty of regular payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions will incur the wrath of workers; and to mobilize to any state that retrenches workers because workers should not be made the scape goats of the downturn in the economy. The benefits of political employees are not touched. They are paid regularly huge sums that are not even approved by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
In line with the Congress’ philosophy of an injury to one is an injury to all, Congress also resolved to mobilize to Imo state to shut it down as a response to Governor Okorocha’s consistent anti-labour policies, impunity and retrenchment of workers, in spite of his promises to the leadership of the Congress that he would not take such decisions. Congress also resolved to take a national action in respect of Imo if necessary.
NLC noted that Governor Okorocha has raised a private militia which he has armed to the teeth and they are presently inflicting injuries on innocent workers. It considers this as illegal and resolved to make a report to the IGP, warning that in the event that Okorocha violates the law by unleashing the militia again on workers, that would be consequences.