Dear NLC, Politics or Minimum Wage? || Demoshood Abiola

Labour unions have long played a vital role in advocating for workers’ rights, ensuring fair wages, and improving working conditions globally. Historically, in Nigeria, these unions have been instrumental in addressing socio-economic issues and representing the interests of the workforce.

However, the recent politicization of the NLC by Joe Ajaero has raised significant concerns about their ability to fulfil their primary mission. Labour unions in Nigeria date back to the colonial era, with the Nigerian Union of Teachers forming in 1931 and the Railway Workers Union in 1932.

These early unions focused on addressing the exploitation of Nigerian workers by colonial employers. Post-independence, the Labour Union expanded, establishing the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in 1978.

Over the decades, the Nigeria Labour Congress has engaged in industrial actions and ventured into the political arena. The intersection of Labour activism and politics is not inherently problematic; indeed, it can amplify the voice of workers in policy-making. Recently, the politicisation of the Joe Ajaero-led, NLC has compromised the Union’s autonomy: NLC has increasingly aligned with political parties, compromising their independence.

The last election exposed how the NLC leaders endorsed a political candidate, receiving promises of policy favours in return. This symbiotic relationship has undermined the unions’ ability to advocate impartially for workers’ rights.

Using the Labour leaders as an instrument, Politicians are exploiting the NLC for their electoral advantage. This manipulation is having profound implications for both workers and the broader Nigerian society. When unions are co-opted by political interests, their primary mission of advocating for a better society leads to reduced productivity and Stunted Economic Progress.

Effective Labour unions contribute to economic stability, not sabotage, as we have seen the NLC display today.

With the blockage of the Airports, and shutting down of the National Grid, it is apparent that the NLC is focusing more on political agendas than on fostering a conducive environment for economic growth.

A neutral Labour Union traditionally act as a counterbalance to corporate power, advocating for equitable wealth distribution, not mere political tantrums.
I implore the Joe Ajaero-led NLC to reassert their autonomy, by distancing themselves from overt political affiliations.

The politicization of the Nigeria Labour Congress poses significant challenges to its effectiveness and integrity. NLC should refocus on their primary mission of advocating for workers’ rights for the broader goal of social and economic justice.

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