As most workers resume after the lockdown, especially in Lagos and Abuja, the organised labour has pledged to defend workers’ rights.
The trade centres and their affiliates are unanimous against any slash in salaries or the plan by employers to convert the lockdown period to yearly leave.
Last week, the management of Airport Hotel directed its staff members to proceed on a three-month leave without pay, in reaction to the downturn of business due to the global cocronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic.
The hotel management, in a letter dated April 21, signed by Yemi Madu, stated that the staff members should continue to stay at home for another three months.
The letter reads: “We regret to inform you of the decision of management for you to continue your stay at home after your leave for three months without pay, till the company contacts you.”
According to the management, this was due to the company’s financial crisis and its future uncertainty in this prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Madu noted: “This decision was painful and we are sorry it has to come to this, but we will continue to hope for the best and wish you well.”
The management of Airport Hotel was not only sending the workers home for the next three months without pay, but failed to pay workers their March salary despite being in business before lockdown.
Similarly, the management of Sheraton Hotels, in Lagos and Abuja, have notified their workers of the inability to pay salary in April.
President, Hotel and Personal Services Senior Staff Association (HAPSSSA), Adegbe William Iyeh, said the union considered the hotels’ actions unconstitutional.
“This action is not acceptable to the union. It is against collective bargaining agreement, which the management of these hotels are signatories to,” he warned.
Besides, the labour leader said the hotels, up till the time of the lockdown by the Federal Government, were booked and making good business. He wondered why they had chosen to owe workers.
He said: “All the employers who are not ready to pay their workers, taking advantage of this period, should know that, very soon by the grace of God, the pandemic will be over and the business will resume and then, we as a union, will let them know that we are the pillars behind their success in business.”
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) warned employers against stopping or reducing salary because of COVID-19.
The leadership of the congress has directed its state councils to resist any salary reduction by state governments.
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said labour was not a commodity to be trampled upon.
“This is not the time to stop or deduct from workers’ salary. Such an action would be illogical and illegal, as workers’ salaries are core elements of employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements,” he said.
The NLC chief said workers create the wealth and demand a decent fraction of the reward of their efforts, urging workers to continue to draw inspiration from the fact that, without their sweat, no gain could be made.
He said: “Without the twitching of our muscles, no socio-economic puzzle can be solved. In reciprocation of the enormous sacrifice made by workers, we urge employers to show solidarity with the sacrifice of our workers and people by ensuring wage protection, income support and social inclusion at these trying times.”
He reassured workers that their priority in these trying times remained the cautious, gradual, evidence-led and smart restart of the economy so that they could go back to work.
Taking a cue from the NLC president, the Kaduna State branch of the NLC has rejected the government’s 25 per cent salary cut for senior civil servants in the fight against the pandemic.
The labour union asked the government to return the deduction or face its wrath.
The NLC State Chairman, Ayuba Suleiman, said the deduction could only be done with the workers’ consent.
Also, the President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero, said the labour movement has rejected the plan by employers to cut salaries.
Ajaero, describing the plan as unacceptable, vowed to resist the move in the spirit of solidarity.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) also charged the Federal Government to protect workers from uncharitable employers who may want to maltreat workers under the guise of COVID-19.
Its President, Quadri Olaleye, said the aftermath of COVID-19 might lead to many workers losing their means of livelihood.
“Consequent on COVID-19, many workers might eventually lose their means of livelihood. We call on the government to protect the workers from some uncharitable employers.Workers should not be made victims of COVID-19,” he said.
The TUC chief condemned the plan by employers to cut pay, describing it as wicked.
According to him, this is the time when individuals and organisations should show that workers are partners.
The Maritime Union of Nigeria (MWUN) warned management of any maritime company against any salary cut.
Its President-General, Mr. Adewale Adeyanju, said members of the union would not also accept the lockdown period as their yearly leave.
According to him, workers coud not be made to pay for a problem they did not create: “Most disheartening is the attempt by some management to cut salaries, wages and allowances of our members without any cause.
“On this matter, we stand with the Nigeria Labour Congress, which has acknowledged that, in spite of the fact that workers produce capital, they are at the receiving end.”
He continued: “We also wish to bring to the public space the attempt by some management to cheat our members by forcing them to convert this lockdown period to their annual leave.
“We condemn this attempt without recourse to normal consideration and processes. We find it strange that workers will be subjected to punishment for a situation that is out of their control and this we will resist within the ambit of law.”
On its part, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) called for mutual cooperation among the stakeholders so that they could defeat COVID-19 and the associated hunger for a better tomorrow.
NUPENG President, Williams Akporeha, said this was the time all should come together to save the humanity from the pandemic rather than being preoccupied pecuniary issues.
He said: “The fear of how the workers are going to fare against the unknown enemy and the economic hardships are already creating social upheavals to such an extent that any further loss of jobs in our industry would achieve nothing but complications and aggravation of an already bad situation.”
He said NUPENG empathised with various employers, particularly in the oil and gas industry, and expressed the willingness to work with them in this journey for the survival of humanity and the challenges of revamping workplaces.
He said: “We shall be together when the sun rises once again and our machines in various factories roar back to life.
“It is very important to note here that we received with deep sense of relief and hope the report of the offer of the Department of Petroleum Resources to support the operations of oil and gas companies during the perilous period to avoid stoppage of operations and unnecessary loss of jobs by workers.
‘’On this promising note, we strongly implore oil and gas companies not to exploit the disturbing situation to declare unnecessary redundancies or inflict precarious and unfair labour practices on the workers that are already emotionally and psychologically traumatised.”
The vice president representing Africa on the executive committee of IndustriAll Global Union, Issa Aremu, said the pandemic shows that labour not only creates wealth but saves and nurtures lives.
According to him, post-COVID-19, the government and businesses must stop underrating workers but see them as partners in development.
He noted that Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, reported that no fewer than 100 health workers had tested positive for COVID-19.
“Some have actually died in both public and private hospitals. Better late than never: Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has initiated the life insurance cover for the frontline workers on COVID-19 for a maximum of 5,000 health workers who are employed to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The premium in the sum of N112,500,000 is, however, still token, given the risks to irreplaceable lives.”
He added that labour, under difficult conditions, had risen to defend the right to pay, wages and jobs under the lockdown.
“I salute the leadership of NLC and TUC for ensuring that President Buhari’s directive that all workers should be paid as at when due during the lock down is respected by all employers in both public and private sectors.”
The action by the employers already owing/slashing salary or conversion lockdown to leave might be contrary to the employers umbrella body, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the federal government as NECA calling for the relaxation of the lockdown has expressed, “the federal government had spoken well in urging businesses to continue to bear the brunt without a recourse to staff rationalization.
NECA as the most representative body for ORGANISED businesses and employers of labour in Nigeria had equally added its voice by advising its members to continue to keep the full complements of its workers for as long as it is bearable and as far as economic indices will permit.”
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