From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The Labour Party (LP) has condemned the action of the Rivers State Government by sealing off the state Secretariat of Nigerian Labour Congress(NLC) in Port Harcourt over protest on minimum wage.
Chairman of the party in Rivers State, Prince Favour Rueben, who made the condemnation yesterday in Port Harcourt, while briefing newsmen, appealed to members of NLC not to embark on strike action, and called for a peaceful resolution of the matter between the Government and labour.
He said: “We condemn the action of the Rivers State Government in sealing off the NLC state Secretariat. Just as we plead with the Nigerian Labour Congress not to embark on strike hence we call for reformation of civil service”.
It would be recalled that the government through the George Kelly, Special Adviser, Special Projects & Head Bureau for Special to the Governor had ordered for the shutdown of the NLC Secretariat with claims that the structure which was built by the Rivers State Government for Labour, needs to undergo a general inspections and structural integrity evaluation or tests before the expiration of the defects liability period.
In a statement signed by George Kelly, and made available to newsmen it states: “It is uncharitable and ungrateful for anyone under the aegis of the NLC to misconstrue this exercise for a product of an imagined imbroglio between labour and government. This is sad! The land was not revoked by the government; the building was not seized by the government. The Bureau is only carrying out its routine duty in ensuring that all infrastructure it provides are habitable and safe for use by our people and it’s our practice to seal off buildings when such exercises are being carried out.”
But State chapter of the NLC had argued that the state government officials sealed its office in Port Harcourt following it’s resistance of the new minimum wage, which has not been fully implemented.
State Chairman of NLC, Beatrice Itubo, said, “If there was any need to carry out structural test on the building, was the organised labour not supposed to be informed earlier before the complex was sealed?
“It is less than one year that government built the facility and handed it over to us, we are the ones occupying it, are the government officials the ones to tell us that the building has defects or those of occupying it should tell them if there is challenge with the building.
“How can we believe such claim? I think it is because of our insistence for government to call a meeting to start fresh negotiation on the full implementation of the new minimum wage.”
Itubo, who described the state government’s January payment to workers as funny, noted that the union would not be deterred by intimidation, adding that they remained focused and determined in their demands for the right privileges for workers.