By Josiah Oluwole
Cracks seem to have appeared among organised labour in Ekiti State, following the declaration of an indefinite strike by council workers, beginning from Thursday.
The Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), had last week issued a strike notice to the state government over its failure to pay workers’ salaries, threatening to commence an indefinite strike on Thursday.
The government had made efforts to reach out to the union, in a bid to ensure the strike did not hold.
Following the government’s appeals, many council workers trouped to their offices to resume work early on Thursday.
Their action was also informed by a late notice by the NULGE leadership, suspending the strike.
However, there was commotion when some senior workers stormed the various secretariats, chasing away their colleagues who turned up for work.
They also staged a protest, during which they announced the dissolution of the state executives of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of the state, alleging that the leadership of the unions were compromised.
During the protest, led by former Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayodeji Aluko, and his counterpart in the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Kolawole Olaiya, the workers accused the state government of deceit in its commitment to defray between six and 10 months of outstanding salaries.
While addressing the workers, the labour leaders urged them to leave their offices and begin an indefinite strike.
They said it was wrong for Governor, Ayodele Fayose, who accused his predecessor, Kayode Fayemi, of insensitivity for owing one month salary in 2014, to betray the trust and confidence the workers reposed in him that earned him victory in 2014.
“Today, we are dissolving the executives of NLC and TUC in Ekiti and they stand dissolved , because their leaders, Ade Adesanmi and Odunayo Adesoye, have lost their values. They are no longer talking about the welfare of the workers they were expected to defend.
“We decided not to do this protest before election, so that they won’t read political meanings to it. Workers have died, just because they are not paid. In 2014, Governor Fayose said any governor who owed just a month salary because he is building infrastructure doesn’t worth being a governor.
“Today, the governor is owing pensioners 10 months, LG workers eight months and civil servants and teachers are owed six months. We are not fighting Governor Fayose but he must pay the workers,” said Mr Aluko.
“Shortly after the election, Fayose quickly paid six months salaries and furniture allowances of political office holders, then what becomes of our teeming workers?
“It was sad that Adesanmi and Adesoye decided to give Fayemi three months moratorium to pay workers when he assumes office, when they were practically doing nothing to ensure that Governor Fayose doesn’t leave office a debtor governor as he promised.
“We hereby declare indefinite strike commencing from today and only the national secretariats of both TUC and NLC can negotiate on our behalf, because we no longer trust the State leaderships of the two congresses.”
The workers had earlier accused the labour leaders of receiving N14 million as mobilisation from Governor Fayose to enlist their backing for the July 14 governorship election.
Mr Adesoye, the TUC chairman, however, described the dissolution of his executive as “illegal, null and void and flies in the face of law as prescribed by International Labour Organisation(ILO).”
He also refuted the accusation that the labour leaders collected N14 million to mobilise for Mr Fayose in the recent governorship election, saying the ex-labour leaders were only trying to malign his person and other labour leaders to gain recognition from Mr Fayemi.
“I don’t think they have such power to dissolve an organised labour centres as former leaders. Only the national bodies could do such,” said Mr Adesoye.
“We have tried our best to ensure that the government paid outstanding salaries. We have not shirked our responsibilities, even the State Executive Council of NLC and TUC just passed vote of confidence in us.
“It was very unfortunate that these leaders are trying to destroy the house that brought them up. We are trying our best to ensure that salaries are paid.
“We are expecting government to reduce the outstanding to a reasonable level at the end of this month. So, the protest was in bad taste. What they wanted is political relevance.”
On the allegation that they collected N14 million to mobilise for Mr Fayose, Mr Adesoye said, “It is a blatant lie that we collected a sum of N14 million from Fayose, to do what?
” It was a lie. Blatant lie, they won’t succeed in this attempt to malign our personalities. Fayemi didn’t recognise them and they want it by force. I believe if they should get recognition, it has to be through a clean way.”