By Joan Nwagwu
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called on the Kaduna State Government to reverse the mass sack of workers in the state, describing it as an ”arbitrary and cruel” decision.
NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, made the call in a letter addressed to the State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, a copy of which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Friday, in Abuja.
”Your Excellency, we wish to refer to a letter with reference number GH/KD/5 and addressed to the Head of Service, Kaduna State, by Dr Salisu Suleiman, Principal Private Secretary to Governor Nasir El-Rufai.
”The letter under reference conveyed the decisions of the Kaduna State Government to give effect to compulsory retirement of officers that are 50 years old and above; compulsory retirement of officers on Grade Level 14 and above, even if they are less than fifty years.
“Others are conversion to casual workers for officers on Grade Level 01 – 06 and the directive that no Local Government in Kaduna State shall have more than 50 staff strength.
”We understand that right now redundancy letters are being issued to workers caught in the web of this very arbitrary and cruel decision.
”We wish to remind Your Excellency that this draconian and insensitive move by your government has humungous impact on the livelihood and survival of thousand of Kaduna State workers and their families,” Wabba said.
The labour leader noted that the action by the Kaduna State Government violated the fundamental human and trade union rights of Kaduna State workers.
He added that this was also a gross violation of extant labour laws, especially Section 20 Sub Sections 1 (a-c), 2 and 3 of Nigeria’s Labour Act, which specified the conditions that must be met before any worker could be declared redundant.
“To be precise, Section 20 of the Labour Act, inter alia, provides for the following minimum: The employer shall inform the trade union or workers’ representatives concerned of the reasons for and the extent of the anticipated redundancy”, the NLC president said.
According to him, the actions of the Kaduna State Government to retire workers, who were yet to attain the statutory retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of service, amounted to a contemptuous disdain of the workforce.
”This is also a flagrant violation of the provisions of the civil service rules as contained in contracts of employment of the affected workers, at both state and local government.
“It is pertinent at this point to remind Your Excellency that Nigeria is not a Banana Republic, but a Constitutional Republic governed by laws, rules and regulations.
”To the best of our knowledge, none of the extant provisions in our Constitution, Labour Laws and Civil Service rules, were adhered to before the ongoing redundancy of workers in Kaduna State,” he said.
Wabba, furthermore, called the attention of the Kaduna State Government to the clause in the redundancy letter issued to workers, affected by the mass sack, that all the entitlements of the affected workers would be paid in due course, describing this as being in conflict with the provisions of the Labour Act on redundancy.
”Your Excellency is aware that the clause in the letter is vague, noncommittal, ambiguous and anomalous with the provisions of the Labour Act on redundancy.
“Succinctly put, this industrial ill-wind was only a furtherance of the climate of neo-liberal and anti-workers policies which your administration is increasingly gaining a badge of notoriety in the eyes of right-thinking Nigerians.
”Section 20 (1c) of the Labour Act provides that: the employer shall use his best endeavours to negotiate redundancy payments to any discharged workers.
”Your Excellency, what the law provides for is that redundancy benefits must be negotiated,” he said.
Wabba said the fact that many Kaduna State teachers sacked over two years ago were yet to receive their retirement benefits offered little hope that workers, currently marked for mass sack, will receive theirs any time soon.
He said that the purge of Kaduna State workforce with unjust, arbitrary and illegal mass sack, especially amidst the great difficulties and hardship occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a poorly conceived, extremely wrong, and morally indefensible policy.
”This policy also has very huge implications for the already serious unemployment and security situation in Kaduna State and the country at large.
”The pervading fear now is that the security crisis in Kaduna State will worsen, when bread winners are deprived of their legitimate income and their families put in disarray.
”We write to demand that Your Excellency quickly reverses the so-called rationalisation and casualization of Kaduna State workers.
”If this unsavoury situation persists, Organised Labour will not hesitate to fall back on the lawful options available to workers to pursue justice in this matter,” he said. (NAN)