By Ed Onmata Emmanuel
In my opinion, the communique by the Benue State Chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), is not only self-contradictory, but also an indictment of the Organised Labour.
1) Communique: “a. That the Organized Labour is not against any Biometric
screening initiated by government. However, Organized Labour questions the competence of the contractor handling the exercise having handled a similar exercise during the past administration in the State without any tangible result and calls for immediate termination of his contract.”
(i) the Labour agrees that the Biometric Screening exercise is in order,
(ii) the Labour questioned the competence of the contractor, and
(iii) the Labour also doubts the sincerity of the contractor.
If the same contractor had handled that kind of job during the past administration, what do they mean by failure on his part when his job stopped at the point of submitting his report to the client? In addition, what action did the Organised Labour take when it noticed that failure? Or the Labour felt unconcerned because its members seemed not be adversely affected? Don’t they know that the government used the financial resources that should have been for the benefits of the workforce, welfare of Benue people and development of the state to pay the contractor?
I think calling for termination of the contract is not right because employment, monitoring, control, discipline and termination of appointments are management’s prerogatives. What they should have asked instead was for government not to undertake a screening exercise of their members without their involvement.
2) Communique: “b. That the on-going Biometric screening be stopped forthwith as it should not be a prerequisite for payment of salary arrears owed workers. Hence, Benue workers should not be subjected to the untold hardships they are currently experiencing especially that it could lead to loss of lives as a result of mass movement of workers.”
Knowing that there is no better time than now to detect the ghost workers (who are not even paying subscriptions to any trade union), they should have rather advised on the mode of screening and payment. It could be that both Labour and government agent conduct the screening and issue immediate clearance by which the bank will be advised to pay. But, asking the government to stop the screening is an express permission to pay the ghost workers our resources that they did not work for.
3) Communique: “c. That the said “bailout” funds was assessed based on the payment vouchers of the months in arrears; therefore, the fund is the representation of the financial implication of salary arrears owed Benue workers.”
Again, it is right that the government presented the subsisting salary vouchers to assess the bailout funds on assumption that there were no ghost workers. But, considering the huge labour cost, the management decided to verify the authenticity of the staff drawing such a colossal amount of money from Benue people. By this, if it found some ghost workers, the excess money will be returned to the account. Hence, I advise the Labour to be careful so that it will not be suspected of complicity because the money being stolen from our state purse is for all of us.
I have no problem with their appeal to BSHA to stay action. However, when you beg someone, he has the right to accept or refuse. It is equally right to ask that the workers’ salaries be paid on/before 30/10/2015. However, the Labour should have asked for an emergency tripartite meeting comprising the Organised Labour, Legislature and the Executive to address this situation. In addition, Labour should have asked for earlier payment of October Salary and quick action on the verification with an ultimatum of not more than a week or two.
Labour should know that embarking on strike action because of the exercise is out of place. It should not overstretch our brothers and sisters who were helplessly neglected and buffeted by the past administration. Let it not indulge in action that will make the membership lose fate in the leadership. Aluta Continua!