12 June 2006
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) strongly condemn the anti-workers stance of the Obasanjo-led government that led to the on-going industrial action embarked upon by the public telecommunications (NITEL) workers who are organised under two trade unions viz. SSAUSCGOC and NUPTE. Ordinarily the strike was avoidable but for an anti-poor government that made that totally impossible.
The workers had reached agreements that include improvement of working conditions and settlement of huge arrears with the NITEL management and government since December 2005. But the management and government have failed to fulfill the agreements on flimsy excuses of lack of funds to actualize such agreements.
While calling for prompt settlement of the dispute by meeting of the legitimate demands of workers by the government, the CDWR also demand public apology from the government for the inconvenience caused Nigerians by the disruption of NITEL services.
NITEL is too rich to be poor. With revenues from SAT-3 and E1’s services to various private Telecommunications Operators, and over N 18 billion being owed to NITEL by the Federal Government and its agencies, there is huge resources at disposal of the company that could not only ensure regular payment of workers regularly but also improve the working and living conditions of workers and the NITEL services being provided to the Nigerians.
But as a result of the IMF/World Bank induced neo-liberal policies of privatisation, commercialisation etc. which the Obasanjo-led government has been religiously implementing, the government has done everything and will do more to cripple the services of NITEL and frustrate its workers. This is all in a bid to have a smooth sail in its resolve to sell-off NITEL like every other public utility to the thieving ruling class elements and their foreign counterparts for peanuts.
For a corporation like NITEL to be efficient and productive; it must be well funded and democratically run and managed. Bureaucracy and all its privileges must be eliminated, while the management must be accountable to the staff, the community and the nation. The welfare of workers must be improved to ensure productivity and efficiency. If such genuine reform is carried out, NITEL is capable of employing additional scores of thousands of workers as against the planned sack of workers. The same goes to all other corporations like NPA (ports), NRC (railways), NEPA or PHCN (electricity) etc.
The CDWR calls on all the labour and pro-labour organisations to support the NITEL workers’ strike and openly condemns its anti-poor neo-liberal policies of privatisation and commercialisation and its characteristic insensitivity to the plight of workers who toil daily to produce the wealth being stolen and wasted on bureaucratic privileges.