Labour, Rivers govt, call off warpath, return to negotiation table


Tension crashed to the barest minimum in Rivers State midnight of Monday, September 7, 2020, when the strike expected to start Tuesday morning, was suspended by the organized Labour led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) bosses.

The call-off came at night following late evening talks in Government House ostensibly at the instance of the Rivers State Government (RSG) led by Gov Nyesom Wike who had been blowing hot all through before now. The turn-about came by surprise, after youths loyal to the governor had threatened violence against the strike leaders with loyal groups using social media to denigrate the labour leaders, accusing them of being sponsored by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

The national president of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, who read the agreement said the parties agreed to sign the agreement on the implementation of the new national minimum wage and consequential adjustments.

Wabba announced that the State NLC secretariat that was sealed off for the correction of structural defects, would be unsealed while Government continues with correction work, if any.

He stated that the State Government would immediately restore the remittance of check-off dues and pay all outstanding arrears to the respective labour unions.

According to him, Government would pay the salaries withheld from health workers due to the 2017 strike action.

The NLC president also said the parties agreed to set up a tripartite committee to resolve the adjustment of pensions in line with the constitution and payment of pension and gratuity.

Parties, he said, agreed to take steps to discontinue all on-going litigations in relation to hitherto disputed matters.

Comrade Wabba added that no worker would be victimised on account of his or her involvement in the industrial dispute with the State Government.

He commended Gov Wike for his statesmanship that facilitated the resolution of the dispute.

Tammy Danagogo, Secretary to the State Government, Rufus Godwins, Head of Service, Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communications, and Ayebaesin Beredugo, personal assistant to Gov Wike, signed on behalf of Rivers State Government.

Emmanuel Ugboaja, General Secretary of the NLC, Musa Lawal, Secretary General of the TUC, Beatrice Itubo, chairman of Rivers NLC, Austin Jonah, chairman of Rivers TUC, Chuku Emecheta, Rivers State JPSNC, and Obi Fortune, Secretary General of Rivers TUC, signed on behalf of the organized labour.

By this, the much-talked about strike action starting with protests on the streets of Port Harcourt that were to start on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, would not hold anymore.

How it was resolved;

Labour in meeting with govt in Port Harcourt

News filtered out late Monday evening that labour leaders in Nigeria led by the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, has been meeting in the seat of power in Port Harcourt.

This appeared to be a twist as both parties have been in war of words, such that when the labour team arrived at the Port Harcourt International Airport, they sang labour songs and sang ‘forward ever’ and said they were prepared to face the thugs that threatened to attack them.

The next moment, they were seen in the Government House in Port Harcourt hobnobbing with Gov Nyesom Wike, the same man who had shown no inclination to dialogue or a meeting.

Journalists waited all evening for news of the outcome of the meeting but none came at the time about 10.40pm.

Several groups have taken sides on the matter, some on the side of the Rivers State government while others stand with labour.

The labour movement insists on strike to press home their demands of proper minimum wage, arrears of promotions, pensions, etc.

It is not clear how the u-turn leading to a meeting came about but sources said the meeting in Government House could only be at the instance of the chief executive of the state.

It was gathered that the state governor was in Bauchi State at the weekend. Wabba is from Bauchi State. There is hint that the Bauchi State governor may have been a link man.

There is fear within the opposition family that the Rivers labour crisis may deteriorate and cause a scare on the image of the opposition to be enemy of labour.