A union activist and former Chairman of Rivers State branch of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Chika Onuegbu, has challenged labour unions in Nigeria to demand good governance from those in authority, apart from asking for minimum wage from the government.
Onuegbu, who spoke in a radio programme in Port-Harcourt at the weekend, said that an increase in minimum wage would only bring short relief to workers in the country, noting that the time had come for labour unions to press for good governance so that government will actually be seen to be working.
The former TUC boss said: “This increment in minimum wage will only bring a short relief to the workers but the basic thing is that the workers ought to be demanding for good governance. We need to ensure that the public schools are working, public hospitals are working, public services are working. If these things are working, we don't need too much money to be able to provide the basic things that we need. The quest for more money is because these things are not working”.
The union activist said that while he supports the current demand for a minimum wage, he thinks that it was time for labour unions in the country to advocate for good governance, saying that there is nothing as good as good governance.
He said: “You know, roads are bad. As a result of that, transportation system is not working… So, I think that what is sustainable for labour movement is to ask for good governance, to ensure that government is actually working, to talk about security of lives and property, to talk about provision of public infrastructure, to talk about the provision of quality education… I think that is what is sustainable”.
He further said that labour unions should talk about the “enlargement” of the country's economy so that there would be jobs for those who graduate from school, stressing that there should also be an increase in the growth of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Comrade Onuegbu said the statement that Nigeria is out of recession is a statement known only to people in government and not Nigerians generally because the people of the country do not feel anything to believe that the country's economy is out of recession.
He alleged that those in government are living extravagant lives and expending so much money for their personal needs to the detriment of the economy and Nigerians.
The former TUC Chairman said that the minimum wage for workers in the country should be from negotiation between the government, organized labour and the organized private sector, alleging that the federal government earlier reneged on an agreement with labour unions over the payment of the minimum wage.
He advised the federal government not to treat labour leaders with “disdain” in the process of negotiating for a minimum wage.
He said that the demand for minimum wage is a fundamental right of Nigerian workers, adding that it is also the right of workers to negotiate for the minimum wage.
The former TUC boss, who observed that there are “issues” in the country's economy, said that there is general difficulty among Nigerians with little money in their pockets to meet their needs.