Nigeria: May Day - Chime Avoids Workers Again

Enugu — History repeated itself last Saturday, May 1, 2010 when workers in Enugu State marked the May Day celebration at Michael Okpara Square, Independence Layout, Enugu, without the Governor, Sullivan Chime.

Chime has never featured in the May Day celebration since he assumed office in 2007, and those who thought he could break the jinx last Saturday were disappointed as he was nowhere near the venue.

As usual, Deputy Governor, Sunday Onyebuchi, represented him at the event, which was marked with the theme, "50 Years of Nationhood and the Nigerian Working Class: Challenges of Good Governance, Unity and Credible Elections".

Besides, many people had also thought that the Enugu helmsman would use the May Day celebration to broker peace with the organized labour who tongue-lashed him for not receiving them at his office last year.

National President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar, had led a national rally of labour and civil society to press for electoral reforms and others, but when the train came to Enugu Government House, Chime tactfully avoided them.

Omar, who was piqued by his action, declared Chime an enemy of Nigerian workers and told the workers not to ever support him for a second-term in office in 2011.

A labour leader who pleaded anonymity told Daily Independent that he thought that the governor would use this year's edition of May Day to buy confidence of workers but he failed to live up to expectation.

"You know he has never attended the May Day celebration since he became Governor. But I really thought that he would be here in person this time, considering what happened the last time when labour and civil society came and he avoided them. You know our National President told us not to support his second term. So, I thought that with the coming election, he will try to make amends. But, we are here today and yet he failed to show up," the unionist said.

Our source said that the organized labour gathered reliably that the Governor was in town and yet decided not to honour workers and show his presence at the May Day celebration for reasons best known to him.

Chime's absence not withstanding, the workers used the opportunity of this year's May Day to highlight once again the issue of 12 per cent and 15 per cent salary increase, which has become a recurring decimal at every May Day and every forum since the inception of his administration on May 29,2007.

In an address, Acting State Chairman of NLC, Chris Ani, said the effect of the wage increase heightened with the global meltdown and financial crisis was characterised with pauperised and impoverished wage earners.

According to Ani, the truth is that there is widespread poverty in the entire scope of public service in the state, saying, "I hope that this matter will not outlive the present administration in the state since it will be a negation of human capital development'.

"We therefore call on the state government to implement holistically the 12.5 per cent and 15 per cent salary increases approved by the National Incomes, Salaries and Wages Commission since 2003 and 2007 respectively. The negotiation between the State Government and Organised Labour was bungled and no agreement was signed in accordance with Industrial Relations Practice," he said.

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