The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Lagos State Council, has expressed displeasure over the failure of the government to meet pension expectations of retirees in most states of the federation.
The union lamented that despite clear provisions of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) of 2004, retirees still face a lot of challenges trying to access their entitlements, particularly gratuities as and when due.
These agonies, the workers argued, have further brought tears and suffering to retirees and their families.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day annual workshop organised by the State Council, the workers called on the State Government to prioritise payment of pensions and gratuities.
In his remark, Ogun State Chairman and Coordinator, TUC South West, Olubunmi Fajobi, faulted the structuring of the contributory pension scheme, noting that workers that retired in 2016/17 have not yet been paid anything.
His words: “The fact that the gratuity element was removed from the implementation of the contributory pension is a bad process. Ordinarily, if a worker worked for a number of years, he or she should be appreciated at the end of his career. It is that parting gift, which gratuity represents that has now been completely removed.
“So, I work for you for 35 years and on leaving you just waive at me. This is not in a good light. It does not happen anywhere in the world, even if you have the contributory pension scheme, there is the gratuity element, which we are missing, and that is killing our members. There is a need for the gratuity element to be included in the CPS earners.
“Where is the parting gift for Nigerian workers under the CPS? We must demand the restoration of the gratuity element that we have in the defined benefit.
“Our services must not go in vain. It is better we address this now that we are still in service because we do not know our fate when we get out of service. Some of us are comfortable now with what is coming in but let me remind you that you need more money in retirement than when you are in service. It is killing.”
Speaking on states planning to tax retired workers, Lagos TUC Chairman, Gbenga Ekundayo, said the union is addressing the issue with the government and the Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS), stressing that they need to respect the PRA 2014, which exempts pension and gratuities from tax.
The TUC also urged wants the Lagos State Government to make a policy pronouncement that will confer retirees in Lagos with senior citizen status, attached with some privileges such as free access to government medical facilities and transport systems within the state.
It added that the social safety net programme is long overdue in a city such as Lagos State.
The communiqué, which was signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Gbenga Ekundayo, and Abiodun Aladetan, respectively, equally noted the challenge of housing to workers in Lagos in view of its centrality.
It argued that it has become increasingly glaring that most workers in the state live in dehumanizing conditions due to their inability to access accommodation and housing at a reasonable cost.
According to TUC, rent in a city like Lagos is about 60 per cent of an average workers’ disposable income, which is far higher than the 20 to 30 per cent recommended by the United Nations.
“This pathetic situation, in terms of shelter cost in Lagos has eliminated the low-income earners from the housing market. Therefore, the workshop calls on the State Government to provide low-cost housing for workers because the current Rent-to-Own Scheme of the Government is far above the reach of workers,” communiqué said.
The workshop, themed, “21st-century labour leadership, growth and opportunities and challenges,” also drew the attention of government at all levels to an infrastructural deficit in the areas of healthcare, affordable housing, portable water. In particular, it urged the fixing of bad roads to ease traffic logjam in the state especially in the low budget areas that have served as the nexus for workers.