Labour leaders in Nigeria yesterday harshly criticized state governors for proposing to the Federal Government to offer federal civil servants older than 50 years a one-off retirement package to exit the service.
The governors made the proposal as part of coordinated efforts to instill fiscal discipline and prevent the nation from imminent economic collapse.
According to The Guardian, the proposal, the governors had reportedly urged President Muhammadu Buhari to begin the implementation of the updated Stephen Oronsaye Report, which recommended merger and shutdown of agencies and parastatals with duplicated or contested functions as a way to address bureaucratic inefficiency and reduce the cost of governance.
When The Guardian sought the views of some of the labour unions, they kicked against the move, stating that the governors’ advise to the Federal Government showed crass lack of understanding of the workings of states, which they displayed over time.
The National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Tommy Okon, said no matter how the governors arrived at the proposal, they are enemies to the economy.
“Look at their ages, those who wants to be president of this country. When they have failed, they tie it to the workers. Is it workers that make the economy fail? We will reply them appropriately, as I don’t want to be personal about it,” Okon said.
To the General Secretary of the Nigeria labour Congress (NLC), Emmanuel Ugboaja, the governors’ advise was a clear display of their lack of understanding of how a nation works.
“It doesn’t make any sense; because they have not been working, they don’t understand what work talks. Work is not done by age but by skills, routine and process. You don’t just pay off because you don’t know whether the person is a skilled person whom the next skilled person is five years under him,” he said.
A lawyer and labour expert, Paul Omoijiade, said the advise, if implemented, would further help to destroy the economy, adding that the country needs the experience of the old and the strength of the younger generation to move forward.
He said what the governors said could not be justified in law or on sound economic principle, noting that the government cannot change the terms of employment of the workers through executive fiat.
According to him, the proposal meant that the governors don’t have answers to labour productivity in the country. Also, a veteran in labour movement, Jaye Gaskia, said the implication was that the governor’s were asking the Federal Government to lay workers off.
He described the proposal as bringing back the policy of rationalisation through the back door.
Noting that civil servants have a tenured appointment by age or 35 years in service, he said anything outside that was a breach of contract on their employment and terms of service.
He, however, said no such action could be taken unilaterally because their employments were negotiated through collective bargaining.
“If they are talking about economic crisis, then they should be talking about creating more jobs, because that is the yardstick for reducing the economic hardships on citizens and poverty.
“If government takes that step, it means it is giving the private sector the go ahead to sack workers under the same guise of economic hardship. What moral justification will they have if the private sector begins to do that? In law it is illegitimate; in principle, it is immoral and inhuman to payoff workers, especially people who have served the nation to that length. The problem is not revenue but incompetence, greed and corruption,” he said.
Similarly, Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Adewale Oyerinde, asked if government would follow laid down rules as enshrined in labour law peradventure the workers were open to get paid off.
“Will their retirement package be paid as at the time of early retirement or they will have to leave and join the queue of pensioners, including those seeking for gratuity? It won’t be a unilateral decision or retire by fiat. So that conversation is an option,” he said.