Workers of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) on Thursday in Lagos held a peaceful protest at the commencement of their three-day warning strike over poor condition of service.
The workers, comprising members of Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR) and Senior Staff Association (SSA), took their protest to NRC headquarters, Ebute Metta.
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions and chanted solidarity songs but were locked out of the NRC headquarters in Ebute Metta.
The General Secretary of NUR, Mr. Segun Esan, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, said that the warning strike was called over poor welfare and inadequate renumeration for workers.
Esan listed workers demands to include increased renumeration, individual life insurance for staff, payment of outstanding promotion arrears and outstanding salaries, among others.
He said railway transport sector was a social service and its workers must be appreciated and adequately compensated.
He said that the Federal Government invested billions of dollars on building rail transport infrastructure and transforming the system to a modern railway system but was not investing in human resources.
He appealed to the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to stop ignoring the plight of the railway workers.
He, however, commended President Muhammad I Buhari for the huge investment into the railway infrastructure but appealed for commensurate investment in staff welfare.
“Workers earning N30,000; N32,000; N26,000, depending on what you take home after deductions from your very meagre and near to the ground salary.
“Quite unfortunately, the locomotive entrusted into the hand of the loco driver is worth over and above N500 million.
“When you put the cost of the coaching facilities used to carry passengers and you add the cost of the wagons used to carry goods as the case may be, you will agree with me that the cost of one moving train is the neighborhood of over N2 billion.
“And you are entrusting such equipment into the hands of a worker that is very grossly demotivated? Very poorly remunerated, made unhappy and working under most anti worker condition of work.
“And this is why we have come out to say, we are saying no, to further slavery.
“They insured the lives of the locomotives but the lives of our loco drivers, of our train checkers, of all the train crew are not insured individually apart from the group life assurance that is automatic because government put it there.
“But look at what happened in Abuja-Kaduna railway when our train was attacked, let’s just imagine they succeeded in killing some of railway workers and their passengers,” he said.
NAN reports that the warning strike did not affect Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge train service as the morning and afternoon rides departed and arrived as scheduled.
There was no senior NRC official to address the protesting railway workers as the corporation’s Managing Director, Mr. Freeborn Okhiria, was reportedly out of town.