Amid the growing devastation of the world economy by the impact of coronavirus pandemic, Nigerian workers say only a global solidarity to proffer solution would help the people survive the looming danger posed by the second wave of the deadly virus in 2021.
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC), Ayuba Wabba, stated this in his New Year message to the workers on Friday.
Mr Ayuba who said the impact of the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic was not felt in any other place than the workplace, demanded a better deal for Nigerian workers in 2021 to enable them cope with the problem.
Commending the workers for surviving the turbulence, troubles and trials against them in 2020, he urged workers all over the world, particularly in Nigeria, to celebrate the new year, saying their survival was no mean feat.
He said 2020 was defined largely by disruptions by COVID-19 in the way people worked, lived and play.
COVID-19 impact statistics
Referring to statistics by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Labour leaders noted that as at September 2020 about 94% of the global workforce were impacted by disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The income losses as a result of the impact of the pandemic, he said stands currently at about 495 million full time equivalent (FTE) jobs, with income losses by workers valued at about $3.4 trillion.
With a current global death toll of more than one million seven hundred thousand and an infection rate of more than 82 million persons, Mr Ayuba said the impact of COVID-19 pandemic has left serious wounds in the psyche of the people and a lot of sour tales on the lips of billions in the world.
The real bite of the virus, apart from the high death toll, Mr Ayuba noted, was in the large number of working-class poor the crisis has created, amidst the contraction in productivity as a result of the extensive lockdowns.
These situations, along with their associated slow economic recovery, he said, have exacerbated and deepened the crisis of working-class poverty globally.
“The grim outlook painted in 2020 by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease appears gloomier when we consider the fact that before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic the world was already faced with the prevalence of massive inequality: income inequality, racial injustice and gender discrimination, in addition to the destruction resulting from extreme weather events due to climate change,” he said.
Vaccines not enough
Although he commended the mobilization of efforts towards the development of vaccines for the management of COVID-19, Mr Ayuba said this was not enough.
He said the world should go beyond the development of the vaccines and think about how to make them affable, affordable, and available to the people.
Also, he reiterated the call for the production of pro-poor vaccines for developing and under developed economies of the world.
On the role of the Labour movement in the fight by Nigerians against anti-people’s policies and programmes by the government, the NLC President said Labour is committed to continue to defend the people and the workers considering that it has always been a pan-Nigerian, pro-poor working-class organization.
He assured that the NLC would renew this commitment in the new year, particularly considering the pressure of economic downturns, and the penchant for it to be used as the sacrificial lamb by the working class.
As part of the commitment, the NLC President said Nigerian workers and indeed their counterparts the world over would no longer be available to be used as commodities of sacrifice for woes orchestrated by a greedy and overreaching governments.
Workers deserve better deal in 2021
“We will not stay duck to be picked by bullets of unfair redundancy, wage cuts, slave work conditions, unhealthy work environments and unbearable living conditions, especially hyper-inflation, amidst inflexible remuneration.
“Certainly, Nigerian workers and people deserve better in 2021 and the years beyond it. We deserve decent and living wages, including the national minimum wage paid as at when due.
“We deserve an enabling work environment that satisfies the demands of 21st century occupational safety and health standards. Nigerian pensioners deserve prompt and adequate payment of their pension and sundry retirement benefits.
“Nigerian youths, the aged and the vulnerable among us deserve a sustainable social security scheme that provides meaningful support while unemployed, during sickness and at times of great need such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. In short, Nigerians deserve a full life.
He said the Nigerian workers and people demand freedom from the shackles of economic strangulation, social turmoil, political tumults and the resultant widespread insecurity that has shaken the country to its very foundations.
While demanding an end to the insurgency of terrorism, as well as an end to the rural banditry spreading like Harmattan fire all over the country, Mr Ayuba the organized kidnapping networks must be stopped immediately.
In 2021, the Labour leader said the NLC will intensify the campaign for decent work, steered by the four strategic objectives of decent work – opportunities for full employment, rights at work, social protection, especially for pensioners and social dialogue.
Poised for showdown against states
On the national minimum wage, the NLC President expressed disappointment that some states that signed the collective bargaining agreements with their state councils on the payment of consequential salary adjustment and pension benefits owing to the new national minimum wage have reneged on their commitment.
In the midst of the prevailing astronomical increase in the cost of living, he said it would be tantamount to a death wish on workers for any State to refuse or renege to pay the new national minimum wage and the consequential salary adjustment.
He called on all our state councils of the NLC still struggling with their state governments on the payment of the national minimum wage and consequential salary increase and those owing workers salary arrears to prepare for mass industrial action and protests this New Year.
“We insist that government must make possible the enabling environment that would foster job creation and full employment in line with the constitutional responsibilities of the State to ensure the welfare and security of citizens,” he said.