Labour: A house divided against itself? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Labour: A house divided against itself?

Posted: Apr 21, 2015 at 1:11 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Gbenga Faturoti / Correspondent, Osogbo


The leadership crisis rocking the labour movement in the State of Osun is assuming a new twist following disagreement over the planned three-day warning strike declared by Joint Negotiation Council (JNC); Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and a faction of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state.

Governor of Osun State, Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola

Governor of Osun State, Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola

The crisis is as a result of tenure elongation by the former State Chairman of TUC, Comrade Francis Oladele Adetunji. It was learnt that Adetunji’s tenure in office as TUC Chairman had been elongated by another two years before a new set of executives of TUC headed by Comrade Akinyemi Olatunji was elected and inaugurated on March 6, 2013.

It was further gathered that the issue became a legal battle between the two leaders and as a result, Adetunji refused to leave office and handover union’s property to Olatunji. In fact, at a point early this year, Olatuni’s attempt to call out workers for warning strike over the delay in the payment of workers’ salaries was botched because he did not enjoy the backing of JNC and NLC and former TUC Chairman.

The crisis turned berserk while attempts to enforce the unions’ directive resulted in free for all fight with the new executive of TUC in the state that insisted that the strike action declared by JNC; NLC and a faction of TUC was unnecessary at the moment and that workers should  go back to perform their legitimate duties.

But recently, precisely last Tuesday, April 14, 2015, Francis Adetunji with the support of JNC and NLC called workers out for three day warning strike but Olatunji led executive of TUC kicked against it.

This disagreement resulted in fracas while attempting to implement the directive for the warning strike. In the ensued melee, journalists who were invited to cover the event had bad taste of the fight when some boys allegedly hired by JNC; NLC and Adetunji pounced on the Cameraman of Channels Television, Mr. Oloyede Adegbenle, got him thoroughly beaten and carted away with his camera.

The matter was reported at Ataoja Police Station and investigation into the fracas and assault on Channels Television Cameraman has commenced and the seized camera  recovered though it was discovered to have been damaged by the hoodlums.

Francis Adetunji when contacted for his role in the declaration of warning strike said that the issue concerning the union leadership is before the court with an injunctions that status ante be maintained until the case is determined.

To worsen the situation, Francis Adetunji in collaboration with NJC and NLC leadership has the ears of the state government through the Head of Service Mr. Olayinka Owoeye.

Last week, Adetunji and leadership of JNC and NLC met with the representatives of the state government including the Head of Service, Mr. Olayinka Owoeye and Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti and Chief of Staff to the Governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola at the Banquet Hall of the Governor on the outstanding salaries where the government enjoined the labour to tarry a while till the finances of the state improved.

While noting that things would improve when the new government assumes office at the centre, the state government assured that all their outstanding salaries and allowances would be paid soonest. Mr. Olayinka Owoeye appealed to the labour union to look beyond the striking period and be considerate in the interest of the state. But Adetunji and his group insisted that the warning strike must hold which was resisted by Olatunji led TUC.

Meanwhile, the National Secretariat of the TUC has disowned Comrade Francis Oladele Adetunji and affirmed that he does not represent the congress or its interest in any capacity whatsoever. The union in a statement communicated to the State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) signed by the TUC President and the Secretary General, Comrade Bala Kaigama and Comrade Musa Lawal respectively dissociated the union from the warning strike called by Adetunji with NJC and NLC bodies saying the union has never called for strike action in the state.

The union said it finds Adetunji’s unruly behaviour totally reprehensible and which deserves comprehensive punishing under the law.

“Never in the history of the congress has any individual or group portraying themselves as members of the congress stooped so despicably low as to hire stern-looking armed thugs to physically assault innocent people including fellow workers as well as journalists whose video camera was even confiscated.”

“The Congress emphatically dissociates itself from Adetunji and his criminal, anti-union activities. We reiterate that he does not represent the Congress and has no capacity to call out workers on any strike action.”

“The unauthorized use of a bus belonging to the Congress to convey thugs to the secretariat of the Government of the State of Osun to beat up dutiful workers is the height of irresponsibility on the part of the former Chairman, and we condemn it in its entirety.”

“Indeed, we call on both the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney-General of the State of Osun to ensure that Adetunji and the thugs that he hired to do his unholy bidding against the government and people of the state be immediately apprehend and prosecuted. The law should be made and seen to take its full cause in this matter”.

The Congress reiterated that until the end of their tenure on 5th of March, 2016, Comrade Akinyemi Olatunji led executive committee members are the only substantive officers and representatives of the Congress in the State. We implore the state government under Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; the media houses and the public to acknowledge and work with them as such.

The Congress took further step to send the Secretary General, Comrade Musa Lawal to Osun State to tender unreserved apology to the State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Management of Channels Television and its reporters and Cameraman for the ugly incident.

As at the time of filling this report, the State Command of Nigeria Police has commenced investigation into the incident. The State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mrs. Folasade Odoro hinted that two persons have been arrested in connection with the attack on Channels Cameraman adding that those arrested would be charged to court as soon as investigations are over.

Meanwhile, the state government has sued for peace among the labour leaders saying that their action should be exhibited in a peaceful means and non-violent approach. A statement issued by the media aide of Governor Rauf Aregebsola, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon said that the state is making frantic efforts to address the situation.

According to the statement, “it needs to be stated that Government has been making sterling efforts to address the demands of workers and retirees in the state and in no distant time, they shall be things of the past. Therefore, Government wishes to appeal to all concerned to allow for a little more time to find solutions to the challenges especially now that a new wind of change has blown at the federal level of government for the better management of the Nigerian common wealth.”

“The Government wishes to state categorically that it recognizes the rights of workers to embark on strikes. The Government also believes that workers’ rights to express themselves however does not confer on them any opportunity to cause unrest and any form of the breach of the peace.”

“It is on record that the Rauf Aregbesola-administration has instituted and implemented the most workers-friendly policies in the history of the state. And this government has left nothing hidden in its financial books to warrant any form of doubts on the sincerity of the government and its commitment to prompt payment of salaries and other allowances and full implementation of other incentives for maximum productivity.”

“Labour leaders are also urged to conduct themselves in the most peaceful manner in order to sustain the cordial relationship that has contributed to the rapid growth of the state witnessed under this government.”