A’Ibom Workers Observe Workers’ Day in Low-Key

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…as Labour Force calls on AKSG To Operate Above Social Tumult

…Frowns At Deduction, Publication of Salary Payment on Social Media

As workers in Nigeria join their counterparts across the world to commemorate Workers’ Day, Workers in Akwa Ibom State were not left behind, as they marked the day on low-key amid the novel Coronavirus.

The event which took place on Friday, May 1 at the NLC State Secretariat, Uyo witnessed selected leadership of the Labour force, government functionaries brief the press on the significance of the 2020 May Day.

The 2020 May Day Celebration had as its theme: COVID-19 Pandemic and its Socio-Economic Impact on the Nigerian Working Class.

Also Read: Governor Emmanuel Unveils New Lockdown Measures from Monday, May 4, 2020

The Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Sunny James in his remark commended the efforts of the State Government in demonstrating initiatives aimed at mobilizing the citizens for a good fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said workers in the State were grateful to God that in Akwa lbom State, the crisis has not spiraled out of control.

Comrade James however noted that the State Government must do more to show leadership by operating above the social tumult occasioned by the pandemic.

The NLC boss advised that decisions tailored for the containment of the pandemic and for leveraging the economy must be clear, practical and prudent.

He said the tradition of speculative guesses and trial-and-error approach which he insisted has hitherto defined policy making in the State public domain must give way, to evidence-based and data-backed decision-making.

While expressing appreciation to health workers who have exhibited courage in the midst of daunting personal risks to themselves and their families, Comrade James said the Labour force has noted what he described as ugly upsurge in infractions on the rights and dignity of health workers by some members of the security agencies.

He stressed that the Nigeria Labour Congress shall not tolerate the excesses at this time hence called on the authorities of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies to advise their operatives.

The NLC helmsman added “the reality of the moment demands that Government thinks outside the box; that the price of crude oil has dropped to as low as $US12 amid global supply glut and inflation hovers around 13 percent”.

“It is a sad testament that 20 years after the fight for the abrogation of the on-shore-of-shore dichotomy was won, and the over N5trillion, that has accrued to the State in terms of revenue, we would still be caught unprepared for a post-oil economy.”

The NLC Chairman insisted that it is still possible, however, to deploy a mix of smart policies to keep the economy going in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He explained that first amongst such policies would be to stop the hemorrhage of public funds through opaque fiscal subheads which do not have visible bearing on the welfare of the citizens.

Comrade James offered insight to the fact that the Labour force has drawn the attention of the Government to what he described as the illegality of deducting a worker’s salary for any reason without the consent of the worker involved.

The Chairman insisted that owing to the stifling of economic activities which has made prices of commodities to soar thereby eroding the purchasing power of the currency, the recently approved Minimum Wage will no longer be realistic as its real value has been eroded by the prevalent inflation.

He added “Government should be concerned with measures to preserve income by providing palliatives like tax exemptions and waivers. It is illogical to contemplate deduction in workers’ salaries. The national headquarters of the NLC has already issued directives to all State Councils in this regard.”

On his part, the Chairman of Trade Union Congress, Comrade Dominic Akpan commended the State Government over her effort in the fight against COVID-19.

He advised that for the war to be conquered, it will be a wise course for the government and the people to unite against COVID-19 as the common enemy.

While giving kudos to the State Government over prompt payment of salaries, the TUC helmsman stated that the Labour force frowns over undue attention given by government to payment of salaries on social media.

He noted that besides such promotion causing a hike in prices of goods and services, it exposes workers to security risk.

Earlier, the Commissioner for for Labour Productivity and Manpower Planning, Prof Victor Inoka commended the workers for the role they play in building the State.

While assuring workers in the State of government interest in their welfare he advised them to take recommended precautions against COVID-19.

On his part, the Head Of Civil Service, Elder Effiong Essien noted that the Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration is commitment to the welfare of workers.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary of Civil Service, Mrs Ekaette Ekanem, he explained that State Government commitment is demonstrated in the affordable housing scheme, the on-going effort in clearing the backIog of inherited gratuities, payment of the New National Minimum wage With the federal percentage of consequential increment

and with arrears, among others.

He added ” he up-to-date payment of salaries and pensions on the new minimum wage scale, despite the present downturn on the global economy nay national, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a further demonstration of our Governor’s fatherly and compassionate disposition.”

In his address, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel commended Akwa Ibom workers and leaders of the Organized Labour in the State for the industrial harmony enjoyed under his administration.

Represented by the Head of Civil Service, Elder Effiong Essien, he noted that in spite of the dire and challenging economic times, the State is able to pay the salary of workers on April 24th – a clear one week to the end of the month.

The State Governor pointed out that his administration’s commitment to the welfare of workers remains strong and abiding.

Governor Emmanuel added “Last year in my May Day speech, I had stated that once the modalities for the payment of the new minimum wage were worked out, that we will commence the payment.

“As you can attest, we commenced the payment of the new minimum wage last December. Our Affordable Mass Housing Scheme for workers is on-going.

“We are also making concerted efforts at clearing inherited arrears of gratuities, the first set of such, which was done upon my assumption of office, in May 2015, where a ten-year backlog was cleared to the joy and eternal gratitude of the workers.”

He said his administration is facilitating prompt handling of promotion processes alongside human capacity development through strategic trainings.

The Governor assured that together, the State government and workers will work to bring lasting prosperity to the State in good health and great strength.

Credit: Ekemini Simon