Labour movement rises up in Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe

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Nigerian workers’ unions on a Nigerian Labour Congress march against massive inflation, as judges get their pay tripled but workers’ minimum wage is too low to live on

Timi Frank, the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria, on Thursday, called on the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to reject any minimum wage offer from the government that is less than 250,000 niara per month.

He was speaking as strikes continue across the country in both the public and private sector.

Frank, who was reacting to unconfirmed reports of Federal government’s offer of 105,000 niara to workers as new minimum wage said: ‘Any amount below 250,000 niara cannot be considered a decent wage for Nigerian workers considering the present socio-economic hardship in the country.’

Frank accused the President Bola Tinubu-led administration of double standards after Tinubu recently sent a Bill to the National Assembly in which he proposed a 300 per cent increase in the salaries and allowances of Supreme Court Justices, Appeal Court Justices, President of the National Industrial Court, Judges of the Federal and State High Courts as well as Grand Khadi of State Sharia Courts, among others, in the country.

He noted that the Bill has been hurriedly passed as proposed by the President in both chambers of the National Assembly and now awaiting the assent of the President to become enforceable law.

Frank added: ‘How can you increase the salary of an arm of government that is already earning a humongous salary by 300 per cent and add peanuts to the paltry N30,000 that workers have been compelled to live with in this country as minimum wage in the last five years?

‘Why did the President send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly to effect a 300 per cent upward review in the salaries of Judicial Office Holders but set up a tripartite committee to negotiate a ‘starvation wage’ for suffering Nigerian workers instead of a ‘living wage’ he promised them on assumption of office in May last year?’

Meanwhile, the Medical Laboratory Professional Workers Union in Ghana has condemned the intimidation of its members by some hospital managers.

According to the union, it has received reports that these managers have decided to freeze the salaries of staff who have refused to resume work due to the ongoing strike.

In a statement signed by the general secretary of the union, Dr Cephas Akortor, such acts flout the Industrial and Labour Act 651.

‘The union wishes to admonish our facility managers to desist from such acts, threats and intimidations immediately.

‘The right to strike or protest is a lawful act and recognised means for workers to express their grievances and demand fair treatment.’

Dr Cephas Akortor also cited sections 79(1) and 169(1) of the Labour Act which provides that employers should uphold the right of workers when they are fighting for their rights.

He pleaded with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission and the Ministry of Health to be swift in resolving workers’ grievances on their conditions of service.

He said: ‘We urge the authorities responsible for addressing the above concerns particularly the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission and the Ministry of Finance to be swift within the next few days and in good faith to facilitate the prompt return of members to work.

‘The continuation of the agitation and potential escalation to include private laboratories and other professional groups in solidarity will have significant repercussions on the health care system and it is imperative to avoid this outcome by resolving the matters promptly.’

Elsewhere, a coalition of mining workers unions in Zimbabwe have petitioned the Labour ministry over alleged irregularities and corruption in the selection process for union representatives to the National Employment Council (NEC) committees.

The unions claimed the process, which is mandated by law, was unfairly manipulated to exclude certain legitimate trade unions, thereby denying them a seat at the table to advocate workers’ rights and fair labour standards.

The Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Mineral Workers Union (Zdamwu) was recently incorporated into the NEC for the mining industry, joining the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (Amwuz) and the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CoMZ).

However, in a letter the unions, through their lawyers Masarire Law Chambers, expressed concerns over the manner in which the selection of the unions into NEC was done.

The unions are National Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe, Professional and General Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe, Solidarity Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Advanced Mine Workers Union and National Union of Mine, Quarry, Iron and Steel Workers of Zimbabwe.

The letter stated: ‘We write to register our complaint against the NEC for the mining industry and others over the manner in which the selection of members union who shall sit on the NEC committees as required by the law was done.

‘The industry has seven trade unions and only two were selected in a manner which was tainted with corruption and fraud, thereby excluding some bona fide trade unions despite the fact that all trade unions in the industry must have seats on the committee for the purpose of advancing workers’ rights and fair labour standards.

‘Only Amwuz and Zdamwu were selected.

‘The criteria used was never agreed by all trade unions and the accreditation was never done properly, and the verified number of members each union has, was never done properly, the chairman was never chosen by both parties but rather imposed to the extent that all the other trade unions were removed from the ring and left with only two trade unions.’

The unions noted that the NEC refused documents with the constitution which they used for accreditation, which they flagged as gross irregularity.

The letter added: ‘We, therefore, request your urgent intervention on the issue and the selected trade unions should not be allowed to participate in the affairs of the NEC for the mining industry which has several unions only as well as bargaining for any salaries and wages for the workers.

‘The accreditation and selection done must be stopped forthwith and nullified.

‘The affairs of the workers cannot be decided by only two trade unions alone.

‘We have since requested the documents they relied on during accreditation, but they refused to supply the same with us and this prompted us to seek your urgent intervention.

‘We, therefore, request an urgent meeting with all the trade unions and the NEC officers and Chamber of Mines to resolve these issues at the earliest convenient date.’

‘We will seek direct ministerial intervention over the issue.’