Some leaders of labour unions in Abuja have criticised the emergence of a new central labour union in the country.
They described it as a `set back’ to achieving the new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
The labour leaders bare their minds in separate in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday.
NAN recalls that a new central labour union, the United Labour Congress (ULC), was recently formed in Lagos when no fewer than 25 industrial unions elected Mr Joe Ajaero as President of ULC.
ULC came into being after a two-year internal crisis that split the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) into two opposing factions.
Mr Sunday Alhassan, President, Nigeria Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE) described the formation of ULC as a “very sad story.’’
He described the action as `setback’ to efforts being made by labour to achieve the proposed new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
“Government may take advantage of this split, by telling the leaders of the two central unions that their house is not united.
“This means that the process of achieving the new minimum wage will keep dragging just because of the misgiving and anger of some labour leaders on the outcome of the 2015 NLC election.
“If you look at it, it is about five to six years since the last national minimum wage Act was reviewed; and it is due for another review.
“Till now we have not been able to come up with anything due to disagreements and it is time for us to unite at this point in time for the common good of the movement and Nigerian workers,” Alhassan said.
He warned that government would seize the opportunity of a divided house in the labour movement to further oppress Nigerian workers.
The NUPTE president stressed the need for unity in the labour movement in order to speak with single voice for the benefit of the working class.
In his submission, Mr Bunmi Ogunkolade, Senior Assistant General-Secretary, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, warned that two or more central labour unions would give the government the opportunity to unduly delay payment of workers benefits.
He added that it would also weaken the labour movement.
He appealed to the promoters of the ULC to have a rethink, adding that workers and Nigerians would suffer from the split in the labour movement.
“I want to appeal to our colleagues to do the best they can for the sake of the movement by making moves to settle their differences.
“A divided labour movement will serve the purpose of the elites and the oppressors.
“I plead with Ajearo and others; whatever their misgivings or ill feelings, please allow the issue to be settled.
“It is only with one voice that the labour movement will be strengthened to achieve its purpose.
“We should come together to fight a common goal; not to fight for positions and create more labour different centres in the country, ‘’he said.
Mr Lateef Oyelekan, President, National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees. (NUFBTE), warned that the decision to form another central labour union would affect the way and manner government handle labour issues.
“At this point in time, we do not need a divided house because workers are already oppressed in one way or the other.
“ Their actions (the leaders of the two unions) will further bring hardship to the Nigerian worker in terms of lack of payment of salaries, the over due new minimum wage among others.”
Oyelekan appealed to the promoters of the new movement to reconsider their action, warning that it would have adverse affects on the unions, workers and Nigerians in general.
“How can you after putting much efforts to build a house and you now want to use your own hands to destroy it without concern for those the roof will fall upon.
“Workers need one voice, one movement, to stand by them right now; not a divided house, ‘’Oyelekan added.
Contrary to the views expressed by his colleagues, Mr Amechi Asugwuni, President, National Union of Civil Engineering, Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers, described the emergence of the new central union as a `welcome development.’
“There is nothing wrong in having two, three or even four labour centres in the country.
“ They will all be fighting towards achieving one goal for workers and Nigerians, in terms of more pressure on government,’’ he said. (NAN)