…Govt calls labour to vital meeting today
…’Strike may begin this week or Monday.
By Ukpono Ukpong
Revving up its machinery, the powerful National Executive Council (NEC) of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is to meet not later than Wednesday this week to fix a date for commencement of its planned nationwide indefinite strike over the suffering afflicting workers and ordinary Nigerians due to Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy.
The NEC comprises all Presidents, General Secretaries, Treasurers of all NLC’s affiliate unions; State Chairpersons and Secretaries of the NLC State Councils, Chairperson of the NLC Youth Committee and members of the National Administrative Council (NAC).
But, FG quickly moved, yesterday, to attempt to quash the strike plan by inviting labour leaders to a crucial meeting in Abuja, billed for today.
If the strike holds this week or from next Monday, it will be coming a little above a fortnight after the two-day warning strike of September 4-5 which paralyzed the economy and rendered government activities prostrate.
Sources in NLC told The Daily Times last night that the NEC meeting is tentatively billed ”for tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday, all other things being equal.”
The strike threat followed the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum handed government to address outstanding issues pertaining to alleviating the hardship being suffered by workers on account of the subsidy removal, even as NLC rejected the rice and foodstuff palliatives being offered by government to Nigerians as ”grossly inadequate.”
Among other demands, labour also wants a restart of the FG/Labour Committee on negotiation of proper palliatives for workers and ordinary Nigerians–a body which, labour said, government appeared unwilling or reticent to move into next gear.
Labour is also demanding a wage award for workers as an interim measure to ameliorate the dire socio-economic situation arising from the subsidy removal — a step some state governments have undertaken but which the FG was yet to kickstart.
However, seeking to avert the proposed strike, Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Bako Lalong, invited the congress for another meeting.
The Minister, who directed the Ministry’s Department of Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations to convene a meeting with the NLC leadership for today, said it was important that the congress sits with government to resolve all pending matters to avert further disruption to the economy.
According to the Minister, the administration of President Bola Tinubu will always engage organized labour and respond to its concerns after due consultation and negotiations in order to guarantee industrial harmony which, he stressed, is critical to the attainment of the Renewed Hope Agenda.
It would be recalled that the Minister had invited the two Labour centres—NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC)—for talks to avert the last two-day warning strike but only the TUC showed up for the meeting.
The NLC had on September 1, during its NEC meeting held in Abuja, resolved to embark on indefinite nationwide strike.
NLC President, Joe Ajaero, during a press conference announcing the strike intention, after the congress’ NEC meeting, explained that the proposed strike was necessitated, among others, by what he described as the government’s deliberate neglect and disregard to engage the relevant stakeholders through the channel of social dialogue.
He said the FG refused to engage and reach an agreement with organized labour on critical issues on the consequences of the hike in prices of petrol a fallout of fuel subsidy removal, which has unleashed massive suffering on Nigerian workers and masses.
Ajaero said that the NEC meeting, which was an all-inclusive session, deeply analyzed the prevailing national sentiment, taking into account the extensive hardships and deprivation afflicting citizens in the land.
His words: “The council scrutinized the Federal Government’s failure to establish essential structures to address the widespread suffering in our nation. Furthermore, it considered the government’s deliberate neglect and disregard for engaging with national stakeholders through the channels of social dialogue, a commitment it had solemnly declared during the President’s inaugural address on May 29, 2023.
“The Federal Government has refused to engage and reach agreement with Organized labour on the critical issues of the consequences of the unfortunate hike in the price of petrol which had unleashed massive suffering on Nigerian workers and masses.
“As a result of the aforementioned, the NEC-in-Session resolved as follows: To embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from today until steps are taken by the Government to address the excruciating mass suffering and impoverishment being experienced around the country.
“To commence a two-day nationwide warning strike on Tuesday & Wednesday, the 5th & 6th of September, 2023 to demonstrate our readiness for the indefinite strike later in the month.”