Workers of the Nigerian Railway Corporation on Thursday started a three-day warning strike against what they described as low salary payment and poor welfare.
The workers, who protested at the train stations in Lagos, Oyo and Abuja, accused the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, of handling their matter with levity.
In Lagos, the railway workers grounded activities at the Iddo station, Ebute Meta, where they stopped all vehicles and motorcycles from passing through the station.
They carried placards with various inscriptions, including, ‘Railway workers salary is poorest and worst under FMOT’, ‘Enhance salary for NRC, Amaechi learn from Pantami’, ‘Amaechi, don’t kill NRC workers,’ among others.
The workers lamented the non-payment of promotion arrears from 2018 to 2021 and the demolition of workers’ quarters.
The Secretary-General of the Nigerian Union of Railway Workers, Segun Esan, said the strike was triggered after the union had a meeting with Amaechi on Saturday, which ended in a deadlock.
He said, “We don’t want to remain out of job; we love our job, but it has become expedient to do this in order to ask for our rights. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t have got to this stage, but our honourable minister of transport has never deemed it fit to meet the workers.
“The only time he met with us was in 2015 or 2016 when he was made the minister and the second time was last Saturday when he called for a meeting but we could not arrive at any reasonable convergence because the minister didn’t handle it the way we expected. He walked out on us, and we could not conclude and that was why we resorted to this three days warning strike.
“We have many problems with the management of the Nigerian Railway Corporation like the non-payment of promotion arrears from 2018 to 2021, demolition of quarters and taking an eternity to replace the quarters, while the workers are suffering in their various rented apartments out there.
“The reason for our three days warning strike is to remind the Federal Government and the management of the railway corporation and every concerned Nigerian to look in our direction and understand that we are in serious poverty in Nigerian railway as occasioned by the poor welfare.”
Esan, who noted that the salary of the locomotive drivers was N30,000, urged the Federal Government to insure the lives of railway workers.
In Abuja, activities were grounded at railway stations.
The premises of the Idu Railway Station, regarded as one of the busiest stations in the country, were devoid of the regular human traffic.
The gates were all locked.
Our correspondent gathered that the situation was the same at the railway station in Kubwa.
The President-General of the Nigerian Union of Railway Workers, Innocent Ajiji, said the warning strike was not only about the 350 per cent increment in their salaries, but other welfare packages.
He said, “Our choice of this period is deliberate; we know this is the time our voices will be heard. We want a better working condition and 350 per cent increase in our salaries. Last year, this was included in the budget proposal, but it was struck out for reasons best known to the lawmakers.
“The warning strike is not only about the increase in our salaries. We are demanding that the condition of service should be reviewed. The last time this was done was in 1983. Also, we are demanding that railway workers should be individually insured. After this strike, we will give them time for implementation and not negotiation, after which we will embark on an indefinite strike.”
Also, the President, Senior Staff Association, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Aliyu Mainasara, said workers were dying in silence due to poor salaries.
He said, “Truck drivers are earning far above us. We have been on it for a while now. We have been meeting with the minister for the past six years; he has been giving us assurance with nothing to show for it.
“We are service providers; on a daily basis, we have about 15,000 passengers in all our stations and generate nothing less than N32m daily for the government. We can’t continue to be slaves to the government; that era is gone.”
In Ibadan, Oyo State, scores of intending passengers were turned back from the Obafemi Awolowo Train Station, Moniya, and the Ladoke Akintola Train Station at Omi Adio in Ibadan, following the strike.
Some of the workers, who were seen at the station in Moniya, were armed with placards with various inscriptions denouncing the way they were being treated.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the train which was supposed to leave by 8am did not because of the strike.
Taxi drivers, who usually wait for the arrival of the train from Lagos around 11.30am, had also deserted the car park.
The ticketing office, departure and arrival were deserted.
Some of the Okada riders, who usually make brisk business by conveying passengers from Moniya to the village where the train station is located, also lamented that they had been affected by the strike.
Some residents of Ibadan who said they had planned to board the train to Lagos on Friday, said they would have to travel by road because of the development.