INDUSTRIAL HARMONY: KEY TO GOVERNMENT DEVELOPMENT POLICIES
The twin issues of wage increase as well as conducive work environment have been the bane of industrial harmony in Nigeria. In fact, these accounted for majority of industrial actions witnessed in the country since the democratic dispensation.
The Goodluck administration has had its own fair share of the strike. At various times, doctors, civil servants, and lately electricity workers have taken turn to embark on action over certain grievances.
However, with the declaration by Minister of Labour and Productivity Chief Emeka Wogu, government has decided to be proactive and nip in the bud any matter likely to cause the workers to down tools especially in the public sector. The Minister said in an interview with Daily Sun that in line with the seven point agenda of the government, every complaint by any segment of the nation's workforce would be address even before an ultimatum comes.
He said though there could be one or two issues that may arise owing to communication breakdown, because according to him, disagreement is part of human interaction and would from time to time arises, the only thing we need to do is to understand ourselves clearly and approach matters with all sincerity of purpose.
Wogu explained that employers also have opportunity to come forward for joint efforts at bringing about industrial harmony saying the tripod stand of labour industrial relation just have to work together.
He urged Nigerians to discard the idea that government is usually not ready to isten to advice noting that the government in power today is all committed to the peace and unity of all so that the much touted development can come. Said he:'As you can see, the present administration is a generational shift from the past. President Jonathan is aligning with the young generation and seeking the advice of the older citizens for the benefit of all. Since he came to power he has been deploying the wisdom of elders and the dynamism of the youths to tackle the very many problems that has been besetting the nation.
'Nigeria is at her crucial stage of development and all hands must be on deck to guarantee industrial harmony for the dream of vision 20:2020 to be realized. We have no time to waste again, one of the greatest assets this nation and indeed any serious nation should have is her workforce.'
This much, the minister had been emphasizing at every fora with the latest being the visit of the national executive officers of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), led by its President, Micheal Alogba Olukoya, who visited him weekend. The minister assured teachers of the commitment of President Jonathan to various reforms aimed at improving the welfare of workers.
According to him; 'this administration is concerned with certain reforms that have taken place in Labour sector, Electoral, Power and other reforms that are intended to improve the life of Nigeria citizens and economy of the country including the productivity level'. Wogu affirmed that any union that was yet to be registered by his ministry remains unregistered and the effect of that, is that it is not a trade union under the law and will not be recognized by the ministry.
'The issue of such illegal activities once established will be put across to relevant agencies that are involved in investigation and prosecution of illegal activities in line with our extant laws and adherence to the rule of law', he emphasized.
He assured NUT that his ministry would support the establishment of a National Education Labour Relations Council (NELRC) which he believes will reduce the burden on his ministry, while urging the union to revisit its decision to embark on strike in the case of states that are yet to implement the payment of 27.5 per cent Enhanced Professional Allowances for Teachers in Public Primary and Secondary Schools but to embrace the spirit behind social dialogue.
The minister said that the Federal Goernment approved the new wage not because it wanted crisis in the states but for the well being of all, urging the union to explore all avenues to settle the matter in the interest of all parties. Chief Wogu revealed that his ministry is set to hold a town hall meeting with labour administrators and stake holders with the aim of consolidating the industrial harmony being enjoyed in the labour sector.
'By the time we work out the modalities of that town hall meeting every stake holder in labour administration will be invited NUT will not be left out as they will be given a prominent position in the forum'.
He appraised the relevance of the NUT to his ministry and affirmed that it is a union that could not be ignored, having been established in 1931, adding that it is a union that he hoped would remain intact as it is an institutional memory. Wogu assured the union of government's support within the arm bit of law, hoping that the union will reciprocate this gesture by supporting the administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, who is their colleague at a different level.
However, in his remark earlier, the president of the union, Mr. Olukoya said that 'as a body set up by statute and a law-abiding organization, we shall continue to cooperate and collaborate with your ministry towards ensuring that the aims and objectives of our Union remain in tandem with the activities and programmes of your Ministry' he assured.
'we have come, this day to familiarize ourselves with your office, to rub minds with you and deliberate on some salient and vital issues which are germane to our duties and responsibilities, that would to a large extent move our nation on the path of progress and development' he concluded.