There are indications that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) may have settled for an indefinite strike within the next few days, going by information from headquarters of the labour centre.
Although a definite date has not been fixed for the strike action to commence, the leadership of the NLC has convened an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting which holds today, Tuesday, September 26, to review the last meeting the Joe Ajaero led executive had with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong.
Recall that the NLC had declared war against the Federal Government over its abrupt removal of subsidy on fuel without putting adequate mechanism in place in terms of palliatives.
While the government has approved N5 billion per state amounting to over N180 billion, including procurement of grains to be disbursed to the most vulnerable citizens, the NLC insists those interventions are not far reaching at all.
The proposed indefinite strike is also coming on the heels of a plea stance by the Federal Government.
Recall that CEOAFRICA reported that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, in company of the Minister of State, Nkeiruka Onyeajeocha, had met with Vice President Kassim Shettima, last week, where he told journalists that efforts were on to address the issues raised by labour and that any decision to proceed on strike would not be in their best interest.
Although it has been confirmed that the two labour centres, the NLC and Trade Union Congress, are not on the same page regarding when the indefinite strike should kick off, today’s NEC meeting may adopt a final stand on when the industrial action should kick off.
Among the issues NLC wants the Federal Government to address, cuts across shoring up the wages of workers in the country as a means of cushioning the effect of the fuel subsidy removal policy.
Labour is also aggrieved over what it terms unnecessary interference in the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) by the Federal Government and wants it to hands off with immediate effect.
Lalong had stated after the meeting with the vice president last week, “We came to discuss with the VP issues we discussed with labour as a way of follow up. The president is not around and many of the issues we will continue to discuss with the vice president so that there will be smooth, harmonious relationship with the labour”.
Asked if government has done its best to avert a nationwide strike, going by the ultimatum issued by labour which has elapsed, he said, “No, no, no! As for me I don’t think there is any problem. We have fully spent time with the Nigerian labour and posture of the president too is towards welfare and prosperity for workers. We have no doubt and that’s why many of the meetings we have with them we are not ending up boxing ourselves, we were all smiling all of us. We hope that the best is going to come.
“Don’t worry about that. That’s why I said it’s a friendly engagement we are doing with them. We don’t have any fears about some of the things they put and also the suggestions and the package of the Federal Government”.
Recall also that trouble started brewing on May 29, 2023, when the Federal Government exited subsidy payment, claiming there were no funds to support such expenses anymore.
While the announcement elicited instant upward review of the price of fuel products, labour had issued a 21-day ultimatum and vowed to press home its demand with a two-day warning strike on September 5 and 6, which it fulfilled.
Since then it has waited on government to address a number of demands which it tabled but appears not satisfied with the way the Federal Government has handled the situation.
Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, has again appealed to the organised labour not to paralyse the economy of the country with its proposed indefinite strike, saying he has already resolved one of the most critical demands of the congress.
Speaking on Monday, Lalong said in as much as he was able to deliver on the first promise which was the release of the detained members of the executive of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), he would also work and deliver on other demands.
Lalong, who spoke through the spokesman of the ministry, Olajide Oshundun, maintained that the ministry had never relaxed in ensuring that good working environment is provided for workers across the length and breadth of the country.
The minister, who re-emphasised his appeal to the organised labour said the government would soon make a pronouncement on the new wage award for workers, saying the NLC should give them little time rather than paralysing the economy.
“We have not stopped on our roles. The Federal Government has not relegated its roles and responsibilities in ensuring peaceful working environment and the government has been appealing to the NLC to give some little time for the issues to be resolved.
“You would recall that when the NLC delegation came, the first two major items on their list was the release of the NURTW members of executive that were arrested and detained. The second one is the wage award.
“The honourable minister promised them and he delivered on the first one. He personally visited the office of the Inspector-General of Police last week twice and secured the release of the detained NURTW workers.
“In fact, today (Monday), the released officers, led by their Chairman, Tajudeen Baruwa, came to the ministry to appreciate the two ministers.
“So, the Federal Government is reaching out to labour to appeal to them, to give the government a few more weeks. A pronouncement would be made with regard to the second issue which is the wage award,” Oshundun said.