June 11, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

FG meets Labour, NLC presses ahead with Tuesday strike

In apparent desperate effort to avert the Nigeria Labour Congress’s planned warning strike scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Federal Government says it is ready to meet with Labour today Monday.

However, the labour movement, gingered by a horde affiliate-unions and state branches says there is no going back on the two-day warning strike. But it affirms that it remains  open to negotiations with the government despite it (government) breaking previous promises.

NLC had, in a communiqué jointly signed by its president Joe Ajaero, and national secretary Emmanuel Ugboaja, on Friday said the decision to go on nationwide strike followed failure of the President Bola Tinubu-led government to dialogue with organised labour on efforts to cushion the effects of the removal of petrol subsidy on the “poor masses.”

Labour accused government of abandoning negotiations and failing to implement some of the resolutions from previous engagements with the government. It listed no fewer than six grievances it had with the government, noting that its NEC resolved “to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from last Friday until steps are taken to address excruciating mass suffering and impoverishment being experienced around the country.”

Minister of Information and National Orientation Mohammed Idris told Sunday PUNCH in in interview on Saturday that the government would meet with labour leaders  to avert the looming strike.

“Definitely, we are hoping the warning strike can be averted; they are still engaged in discussions and have started to understand each other’s position more. They will meet again on Monday, but the gaps are being closed.” (They meaning Labour on the one hand and government representatives on the other.)

“You know the new minister just came in and has just begun to engage with the NLC. Going forward, you will see more expeditious engagement with the labour union. So far, tension has reduced but work is still in progress. By Monday, they will meet again and hopefully find an amicable resolution on the issues.”

Failure to agree not envisaged

On what the Federal Government plans to do concerning the 21-day strike scheduled to commence later in the month if the parties fail to reach an agreement, the minister expressed optimism that the matters would be resolved before then.

No going back

Meanwhile, the NLC said on Saturday that Government had yet to meet with it since it announced the warning strike, noting however that it was ready for negotiation.

Assistant national secretary Christopher Onyeka says “They (government) didn’t invite us to any meeting, so there is no meeting between us and the government. They have not met with us and there is no official plan to meet with us.”

Asked if the union would honour an invitation, he says, “The labour movement is a negotiation platform built around dialogue. We are not the ones who left the table; it’s the government that has been running away from the table.”

Asked further if there was anything government could do to avert the Tuesday strike, Onyeka said, “Our demands are heavy; they are not what the government can meet between now and Tuesday. We are going on strike and this is a warning strike.

“This is to demonstrate to the government our determination, commitment and preparedness to embark on strike, so they would know that we mean business and we are prepared, committed to ensuring that the right things are done for Nigeria. 

“You don’t treat Nigerians with contempt or disregard them, as if our desires and interests do not matter. Government is about the people and providing benefits for the interests and desires of Nigerians. It is not about the interests of those who are in government, not the interests of foreign bodies, so you listen to Nigerians.”

States declare readiness

In Ogun State, NLC chairman Hameed Ademola says the union is already mobilising members for the strike in compliance with the directive of its national leadership.

Ademola told one mass media outfit in an interview, “We are fully prepared and already mobilising our members for the warning strike. I was part of the process in Abuja and the national leadership has directed that all the 37 councils, in the 36 states and the FCT, should proceed on warning strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Zamfara, NLC state chairman Sani Halliru, says the union would go on the warning strike as instructed by the national body. He said, in a telephone interview that the North-West zone of the union met in Kaduna where it was decided that the two-day warning strike would be complied with.

“I was in the meeting of the North-West zone, comprising Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa and my state Zamfara, where it was unanimously agreed that we shall embark on the two-day strike. So, we in Zamfara State are ready to go for the two-day strike.

In Abia State, chairman Pascal Nweke Iheme, directed members to comply with the national directive. “We just met with affiliate union leaders and have briefed them on that,” he added.

He noted that the warning strike would be devoid of street protest and that it would only be a “sit-at-home” strike, noting that all affiliate unions in the state had been told to mobilise their members for the strike.

Similarly, Sokoto State labour chairman Abdullahi Jungle corroborated Halliru’s (Zamfara chairman) report on their Kaduna meeting. “Yes, we are joining the strike as we are already mobilising our members,” he said.

In Osun State, chairman of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Adebowale Adekola, says labour leaders in the state were are ready to mobilise workers for the warning strike.

“We are still expecting a directive from our national secretariat but we are always ready here in Osun. We are all feeling the pain. All of us will join the strike because there is an economic logjam. We are all feeling pain because of the removal of fuel subsidy. All the promises made are not being fulfilled. There is no other way for us but to down tools.”

Also in Lagos State, NLC chair Funmi Sessi says mobilisation would commence today Monday. “We will begin the mobilisation as planned but before then we will hold a press conference on Monday to announce it before the strike starts on Tuesday,” she stated.

In Ekiti State, the leadership of the NLC says the decision on the two-day warning strike is a collective one and as such its members would participate.

State chairman Kolapo Olatunde says, “If the needful is not done before then, we have to mobilise members for it. There is correspondence as regards the decision. There was a communiqué to that effect from the national body, which is already with our members. It is a collective decision; an injury to one is an injury to all.”

State chapters meet

In some states, however, they said their state executive councils would meet on Monday to discuss modalities.

In Gombe State, the NLC General Secretary, Ibrahim Fika, said members would be mobilised for the strike on Monday after its state executive council meeting.

Fika, in an interview: “This is national. Even if we don’t mobilise, the union’s headquarters will mobilise them. But for us in Gombe State, we will possibly have our state executive meeting on Monday; we returned from Abuja. “I’m very sure the headquarters will communicate to them, but nevertheless, we will have our SEC meeting on Monday so that the next day we will go for the action.”

Kwara State NLC says its members would meet on Monday in Ilorin, the state capital, to decide on the modality for the strike declared by the national leadership of the union.

State chairman Saheed Olayinka says, “The leadership of NLC decided that workers will embark on a two-day warning strike. It is not a protest but a strike. The state executive council meeting will hold on Monday to decide the modalities for the strike.”

States like Benue, Bayelsa and Katsina among others are speaking in similar tones even as unions in electricity, banking, energy and many other critical sectors of the economy are in a frenzy of preparations.

Critical-sector unions mobilise

Among these include Nigeria Union of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, which controls fuel distribution across the country; the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE; Private Telecommunications and Communications Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PTECSSAN, and National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, NUBIFIE, that controls the junior workers in the financial industry.

Others include the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN; National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE; Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals, ANAN, National Association of Air Pilots and Engineers, NAPE; National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees, NUFBTE; National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees, NUCFRLANMPE, and others in the manufacturing sector.

Similarly, in the telecommunications sector, General Secretary of PTECSSAN, Okonu Abdullahi, says that members would fully participate in the strike, saying, “We operate in a very sensitive sector. What will happen for now is that because it will be a warning strike, any fault that occurred within the two days will not be attended to.”

In the same vein, acting General Secretary of NUEE, Dominic Igwebike, informs that “the workers in the electricity sector are part of the decision to embark on the warning strike. Therefore, we are fully prepared to do as directed.”