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The labour-government relations in Enugu

Enugu State goveror, Ugwuanyi

ACROSS the globe today, there is economic quagmire especially for countries that have over-depended on crude oil as their major source of revenue.

This is because of the sudden and unprecedented crash in the price of crude in international market. Nigeria is among the countries being affected having run a mono economy of crude oil for so long, without diversification. The development has engendered crash crunch both in the corridors of power and private sector. It has never been so tough like today in the country’s economic history.

There are palpable fears among Nigerians over job losses in public and private sectors. Workers wake up everyday with fear of uncertainty over their jobs, future and salaries. While some public and private companies have sacked workers with backlog of salaries and arrears owed them, others have threatened to downsize their workforce to avoid total collapse of their activities. In some States, the government and the labour union leaders are already at each other’s jugular over the retrenchment or planned retrenchment of workers due to the dwindling government revenues.

In Enugu State, the situation is different because the government led by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is quietly building what seems an emerging phenomenal labour-friendly disposition that would be difficult to come by in these austere times when tacit as well as outright moves in many a state of the nation are being primed to reduce workforce in deference to compelling needs to cut the costs of governance.

The government has further strengthened the bond of friendship with the organised labour both at the state and national levels through the instrumentality of a governance style that opens the door for very unique participatory democratic engagements.

It was for this obvious reason that the President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Waba, his Trade Union Congress (TUC) Comrade Bobboi Kaigama counterpart alongside other labour activists were excited during their fact-finding mission to Enugu State recently to ascertain the level of relationship between the workers and the state government.

The mission, interestingly ended up at a roundtable during which the leaders could expressed joy over the cordiality already entrenched by the state government’s responsiveness and commitment to the workers` needs and welfare, which was an extension of the government’s policy thrust of ensuring transformed lives of the entire Enugu people.

Incidentally, the national labour leaders were welcomed during the mission by their state
counter parts with the good news of the state government’s donation of a utility Hiace bus to each of the two unions-NLC and the TUC in the State 
the previous day, which raised hope for a better 2016
industrial year for workers in the state.

The disclosure was part of the responses from the State chairmen of the labour unions to questions from the national leaders on how
the workers are faring with the present government in the State. The disclosure led to the chronicle of the state government’s quick and positive
responses to the various demands by the labour unions.

In his response, NLC President, Wabba said: “We came, we saw an epitome of humility in you. Your Excellency, I
think in this country, we are beginning to have leaders at the helm
of affairs that are truly leaders. I strongly believe
that Enugu state is a lucky state. You have shown us that the workers in your state are partners in progress, not slaves.

There is no doubt that
Governor Ugwuanyi`s gesture to workers since he assumed is not cosmetic or pretentious to score any cheap political popularity, but rather a demonstration of what his heart contains and as a measure of his personality.

Speaking during the State Workers’
New Year prayer session, Governor Ugwuanyi said: “We will continue to pay salaries. It is
only when we pay salaries that we can activate the economy of the state. This is because Enugu State is more of a civil servant state.’ 
Ugwuanyi made this solemn promise in the face of his admittance of the fact that all is not well with the economy because of the crash in oil price.

One clear fact about the present administration in the state since it came into office is that its relationship with the workers has been that of conviviality and partnership in 
pursuit of economic stability of the State. That is why at several occasions, Governor Ugwuanyi has always acknowledged the fact that as a civil service state,
businesses cannot experience the needed boost, if workers in the state are being owed backlog of salaries. The observation has of course placed Enugu workers on the position
of not only the favoured but the best bride of Governor Ugwuanyi-led
government in the state.

At the inception of the government, the language in the polity changed from sharing of the excess crude fund among the three tiers of government, to the stop-gap `bail-out` fund. But it took the administrative ingenuity and sensitivity of Governor Ugwuanyi to recognize and acknowledge that the workers should be at the centre of play in the management of
circumstantial fund.

This and the regular payment of workers’ salaries amidst cash crunch formed the foundation of mutual understanding and relationship between Ugwuanyi’s government and workers in the state.

In the words of Enugu State TUC chairman, Mr Chukwum Igbokwe, “even when some
States are having issues with bailout fund, Ugwuanyi made sure
 we are involved in the management and disbursement of the fund to the extent that civil servants whose salaries and allowances were being
owed were paid.”
Enugu is one of the states with the least bailout fund of 4.207 Billion Naira out of the over 32
billion Naira requested for; the State workers were
about the best bailed out of the precarious financial situation facing workers across the country today.

The responsibility now lies on the workers to reciprocate the state government’s endless gestures through effective service delivery in their various departments.
Mrs. Ugwuada, a retired civil servant wrote from Nkanu, Enugu State.