Crisis-ridden Labour draws up battle plan, as ULC to push for N96,000 minimum wage
The two major issues are being tabled by a divided house
A new labour umbrella, the United Labour Congress (ULC), is to champion the wage increase battle. It is a breakaway faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which is to focus on retaining telecommunication jobs for Nigerians – to save the economy and protect national security.
NLC President Ayuba Wabba said yesterday: “In this New Year, we shall work with the relevant arms and agencies of government to checkmate and halt the practices of multinational corporations, especially in the telecommunication, and oil and gas sectors, who are adding to the economic crisis in the country by their new habit of out-scouring of jobs Nigerians can do to new destinations in Asia, especially Dubai and India.’’
He said there were reports that Ericsson Nigeria, the local subsidiary of the global telecommunication solution provider, had disengaged all Nigerian employees in its Network Operating Centres and transferred its operation to India.
Wabba noted that Ericsson Nigeria had in the last few years managed the MTN Network with its Nigerian employees.
“Now, in the name of off-shoring, Indian workers are being brought to understudy their Nigerian counterparts, and thereafter these jobs monitoring MTN and other telecommunication networks are then transferred to India.
“These have huge implications for our national security, in addition to the fact that jobs that Nigerians are competent in are being moved out of the country.
“As the unfolding cyber controversy between the USA and Russia is unfolding, with the network operating centres moved out of the country, we can be easily be shut out from the rest of the world without our being able to do anything about it,’’ Wabba said.
However, the labour leader said the experience over Boko Haram and the SIM registration controversy with MTN clearly illustrate the inherent danger to Nigerian’s national security interest of the move by these multinationals.
He said HUAWEI, a telecommunication giant, was responsible for managing about 75 per cent of network operating centres, such as Etisalat, Airtel, part of GLO and part of MTN network operating centres in Nigeria.
“They have also commenced the knowledge transfer from Nigerian engineers to their Indian counterparts, preparatory to moving their operations to India.
“We will work with the relevant committees of the National Assembly, ministries and agencies to protect our national interest.
“We will be leading national campaigns against these practices in the telecom and oil and gas sectors in this New Year,’’ he said.
Wabba said the affected multinationals must be made to understand that they would not be allowed uninhibited access to making millions of dollars off Nigeria without creating jobs.
He said there must be costs to every multinational decision to take the livelihood of Nigerian workers to other shores.
“We need the understanding, support and cooperation of government and its agencies in this fight to keep these jobs in the country,’’ he said.
But a top official of Ericsson Nigeria denied that the company was working against its Nigerian employees or Nigeria’s interest.
He said the policy was not decidedly targeted at Nigerians working with the organisation, but rather a right-sizing measure designed to cut operating costs across all the regions the firm has operations.
The official, who declined to be quoted because he was not authorized to speak, said the right-sizing measure had taken place in other parts of the world where the firm operates.
According to him, in Sweden, which is Ericson’s home country, not less than 3,000 jobs were axed due to the policy.
Efforts to get the reaction of Chinese Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Huawei, were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, the a breakaway union faction planning to push for N96,000 minimum wage, a major labour crisis seems imminent in the new year.
The United Labour Congress (ULC), which split from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday vowed to engage the government at various levels to generate appropriate policies and programmes that would cushion workers’ hardship.
The minimum wage in the country is N18,000. State governments and private sector employers are finding difficult to pay.
ULC, in a statement by its President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said it would work with the Federal Government for an upward review of the national minimum wage, which it said was long overdue.
“We shall seek greater coverage of the minimum wage to include all Nigerian workers whether working in the formal or informal sectors.
“In this light, we shall work towards designing a wage floor that would be automatically self-adjusting, just like it is done in advanced nations.
“In the US, just yesterday (Sunday), the minimum wage automatically went upwards from $8.00 per hour to U$11.00 per hour.
“This is a national increase of about 37.5 per cent in a nation with declining inflation and low cost of living,” ULC said.
The group said it was focused on working with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Labour and the National Assembly to make appropriate laws that would address the violation of labour laws by foreign and local employers.
“Unilateral sacks and illegal retrenchment will be tackled head-on while the use of casual and contract workers will be seriously tackled to create a Nigerian workplace that is compliant with the Decent Work Agenda.
“We, therefore, give notice to the banks, telecommunication companies and other employers that have taken delight in abusing and violating the rights and privileges of workers in Nigeria through their flagrant disregard of our labour and trade union laws.
“We shall pursue in conjunction with the relevant agencies of government the compliance of our workplaces with the laws of Nigeria and the relevant international standards,” it said.
ULC plans to get involved in budget implementation through an effective monitoring framework.
Besides, a nationwide committee is to be constituted, using state councils in conjunction with other civil society organisations to monitor budget implementation both at the federal and state levels.
ULC believes this will help the government plug all leakages in budget implementation.
The labour group praised the military for driving Boko Haram out of Sambisa Forest.
“As we congratulate the Federal Government and the military in their various victories against the Boko Haram insurgents, especially its recent victory in the Sambisa forest battle, we also urge it to deploy the same zeal in protecting the lives and properties of citizens across Nigeria who are mindlessly being mowed down by death merchants in Kaduna and in other hotspots in the country.
“We also wish that this same zeal is deployed to clinically deal with the battle against corruption. It is time that governments at all levels craft responsive and effective strategies to combat the current hardship in the country. Nigerians truly are yearning for a reprieve from the grip of mass hunger and deprivation.
“ULC finally assures all Nigerian workers to have an increased hope in the labour movement as we are poised and are truly committed to offering a better and more robust representation of all Nigerian workers and our various affiliates.
“We will not waver in this direction and, therefore, call upon our various social partners, especially the employers, to be more committed to ensuring greater obedience to our laws especially those dealing with employment relations in Nigeria.
“We also assure the masses that we shall be forever focused on protecting their interests, thus are determined to continuously engage the government to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of national resources,” the labour group said.