Nigerian railway begs workers to call off strike

Mr Fidet Okhiria, Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), says the corporation will soon include Sunday in the Lagos/Ibadan standard gauge rail service to satisfy customers’ needs.

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) on Friday appealed to the striking workers to call off the strike, saying their demands are receiving accelerated consideration.

Managing Director of the Corporation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria who stated this in a chat with newsmen in Lagos on Friday, however, declared that as the Chief Executive Officer of the NRC, he has no power to increase the workers’ salaries.

Newsmen report that the workers’ in-house unions – the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR) and the Senior Staff Association (SSA), Railway branch, had declared the three-day warning strike which enters day two on Friday.

The strike has paralysed railway operations across the country including the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge service, as well as the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge and Warri-Itakpe service.

However, newsmen learnt that the NRC management is today meeting with union leaders in Lagos to explore the possibility of convincing them to suspend the strike.

Speaking with newsmen, the NRC boss said the Federal Government through the National Salaries, Incomes & Wages Commission (NSIWC) has almost concluded the process of increasing the workers’ salaries.

He appealed to the unions to reconsider their stance and call off the strike in the interest of humanity, advising them to consider the “peace and joy” that railway transportation brings to the people.

He said, “The MD cannot increase the salaries of the Nigerian railway workers. Is the process on? Yes. Are the workers aware? Yes. But do they understand what is happening, that is another thing for them. Now they need to understand that the process is going. We have been updating them on a quarterly basis.

“The issue is that we are not fighting. We continue to appeal to them to come back to work so that we don’t destroy what we are doing. Till that time we will achieve results, I think we should exercise patience.

“At the stage, we are now, we have started the process. The salaries and wages commission which is in charge has related both with the staff, with the unions and the management committee. They have come for a productivity audit and their management has to look at it which I think they are looking at it, it is ongoing.

“It is only when they finish that we move to the next stage. So there is nothing we can do. We believe something good will happen. That is why we continue to appeal to them.”

Okhiria also disclosed that no locomotive driver in the NRC is on minimum wage contrary to the statement by the workers that a locomotive driver is collecting less than N30,000.

“There is no person on minimum wage that would be allowed to drive a train. What we do now is a minimum of OND and no OND holder earns N20,000 and for you to become a train driver, you would be an assistant driver for close to five, six years. You have to learn the operation, you have to be certified. No person is employed today with a school certificate as a driver,” he said.

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