OPS Concerned as Labor Plans Indefinite Strike Starting Tuesday  - The Top Society

OPS Concerned as Labor Plans Indefinite Strike Starting Tuesday 

FG Calls Emergency Meeting with Labour Unions to Avert Plan 

TOPSOCIETYNG

 

In a last-minute effort to prevent the looming nationwide strike set for October 3, 2023, the Federal Government of Nigeria has extended an invitation to organized labor. The strike, which was announced by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) earlier this week, is in protest of the alleged failure of the government to provide post-subsidy palliatives for workers.

The Ministry of Labour, Employment, and Productivity has assured the public that it will engage in discussions with the union leadership prior to any potential shutdown of the economy. Olajide Oshundun, the spokesperson for the labor ministry, confirmed that a meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday. This meeting will revolve around anticipated pronouncements by President Bola Tinubu during his Independence Day broadcast on October 1.

President Tinubu is expected to unveil a palliative package for workers as part of the customary presidential address commemorating Nigeria’s Independence Day. Oshundun revealed that the government has received and acknowledged the two main demands presented by the labor unions.

One of these demands, the release of Tajudeen Baruwa, the factional National President of the National Association of Road Transport Workers, from police custody, has already been met by the Minister of Labour, Employment, and Productivity, Simon Lalong. Baruwa and 21 others were detained by the police on charges including criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide, public disturbance, and conduct likely to cause a breach of peace.

The second major demand centers on a wage award for workers, which the labor unions argue will help alleviate the hardships caused by the removal of the petrol subsidy.

Oshundun said, “We will avert the strike. We got the news of their intention to go on strike. They need to be rest assured that there will be a pronouncement in the October 1 speech of Mr President for Nigerian workers. 

’The ministry is working assiduously to meet with the second aspect of the demand which focuses on the wage award. We have already secured the release of the NURTW factional chairman. 

‘’So we hope to invite them on Tuesday following the pronouncement of the president to see reasons for them to call off the strike.” 

At the virtual National Executive Committee meeting of the NLC held on Tuesday afternoon, Ajaero justified the decision to proceed with the strike, citing the FG’s failure to reverse its anti-poor policies, particularly the removal of fuel subsidy earlier this year. This NEC meeting included various union leaders like Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Theophilus Ndubaku, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Mercy Lanka, the National Treasurer of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Ibrahim Bomoi, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Civil Service Union, and others.

Ajaero informed the over 90 participants that the strike would be carried out in collaboration with the TUC, which initially did not participate in the two-day strike declared by the NLC on September 5 and 6. However, the TUC decided to join the strike after discussions with the leadership of the congress led by its National President, Festus Osifo. This decision was later endorsed during a joint media briefing held by Ajaero and the TUC president in Abuja on Tuesday.

During the NLC NEC meeting, which began at 12:32pm with an opening prayer and the adoption of motions by representatives from NLC state councils in Ebonyi and Borno states, Ajaero also raised concerns about government agents’ alleged plans to disrupt the unity of the congress and spread rumors of a possible compromise by its leadership.

He expressed, “Some people are saying that we have collected money. I have been here for a very long time and I have not encountered such. If anyone has any information, let them come forward and we will investigate.” 

Continuing his statement, Ajaero conveyed to the NEC members in attendance the intention to halt economic activities in the country starting from Tuesday.

Speaking to the press, Ajaero and Osifo announced that their unions opted for “in the spirit of the Independence Day celebration and to demonstrate our resolve for a truly independent Nigeria to take our destinies in our own hands and rescue our nation.”

Ajaero strongly criticized the FG for what he characterized as its indifferent attitude toward addressing the unions’ demands since the implementation of the subsidy removal policy. He accused the government of purposefully avoiding engaging in a substantial and constructive dialogue in good faith, both during the 21-day ultimatum and the two-day nationwide warning strike.

The union leader clarified that during their respective meetings, the national executive councils of the NLC and TUC conducted thorough assessments of the current situation in the country, taking into consideration the widespread hardships and suffering experienced by citizens in all states of the federation.

He emphasized that both NECs unanimously criticized the government for its slow response in addressing the adverse effects of the petrol price increase on the Nigerian population.

Ajaero also pointed out that during the NEC meetings of both the NLC and TUC, it was observed that there was a consensus between Labor and the government regarding the extensive suffering, impoverishment, and hunger experienced by the populace due to the rise in petrol prices. He stressed that urgent corrective measures were needed.

He further accused the government of neglecting its responsibilities and, ‘’had shown gross unwillingness to act, thereby abandoning Nigerian people and workers to excruciating poverty and affliction.’’ 

He went on to allege that the government persistently engaged in posturing and obstructed any opportunities for peaceful discussions with organized labor regarding measures to alleviate hunger and suffering among Nigerians.

Ajaero observed that the Tinubu administration had also shown no clear intent to implement constructive measures to aid the citizens who are experiencing various forms of poverty.

He stated,

“The Federal Government has, therefore, not met in any substantial way the demands of Nigerian workers and peoples as previously canvassed in our mutually agreed roadmap to salvaging the economy and protecting workers and Nigerians from the monumental hardship.

“The grace period given by the two labour centres has expired but the trade unions continue to face severe threat from the state via the brutal and suppressive power of the police and government.

“The National Union of Road Transport Workers office continues to be illegally occupied by the government via the instrumentality of the police who have cloned the leadership of NURTW.’’ 

‘’The Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria continues to be illegally occupied by the Lagos State government in total disregard for the courts and the statutes. 

“That the state has continued to blackmail and sponsor serious campaigns of calumny against trade union leaders on social media using its buying and coercive powers instead of making efforts to lift the burden on the masses,” the NLC President alleged without providing any evidence.

Disclosing the decisions jointly taken by the NLC and TUC, Osifo said, ‘’Consequently, the NLC and TUC NEC-in-session resolved as follows: To, in the spirit of the Independence Day celebration and to demonstrate our resolve for a truly independent Nigeria to take our destinies in our own hands and rescue our nation 

“To embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, the 3rd day of October, 2023; To direct all workers in Nigeria to withdraw their services from their respective workplaces commencing from the 3rd of October. 

“To direct all affiliates and state councils to immediately start mobilizing accordingly for action to organise street protests and rallies until government responds positively to our demands 

“We enjoin all patriotic Nigerians to join hands across the nation to assist this government put the people back at the centre of its policies and programmes.”

Osifo stated that the union had grown weary of the labor ministry’s pledges to execute the unions’ requests, emphasizing that the TUC sought tangible and practical measures.

The TUC’s requests include salary increases for civil servants to alleviate the challenges brought about by the removal of fuel subsidies, tax exemptions for specific worker categories, and the establishment of effective structures for implementing the government’s relief measures.

BREAKING: NLC, TUC Readies Nationwide Shutdown from October 3

He said, “In the last meeting we had with the ministry of labour, they told us the same thing that the president was out of the country and when he comes back they believe that he will make the pronouncement. 

“But I saw it this morning that he said the pronouncement will come soon but again we are really tired of soon, we want a definite pronouncement, we want a definite solution to these lingering issues. 

“At the end of the day, we have been hearing dates, we have been hearing it will come today, we are relatively tired of promises; all we want is action. 

“Nigerians are tired of a lot of meetings, lots of promises, what we want is concrete action, so we are tired of promises and promises.”

Nevertheless, the announcement of the labor strike has raised concerns within the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN), which has cautioned both the FG and labor about its far-reaching consequences on the economy.

The OPSN has observed that the strike is likely to disrupt business operations and exacerbate the economic difficulties faced by Nigerians. In a statement, they emphasized that, especially at this time, the economy cannot withstand a nationwide strike and called upon the Federal Government and labor unions to collaborate in order to prevent the looming disruption of socio-economic activities in the country.

The OPSN consists of various organizations, including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, and the Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists.

After closely monitoring the ongoing discussions between the government and the unions, the OPSN noted that the numerous consultations had failed to produce positive outcomes, setting the stage for the impending industrial action.

The statement read in part,

“We are worried that adequate consideration is not given to the dire situation of the economy and the devastating/disruptive impact that a nationwide strike will have on the country at this time.

“The government and labour need to understand that our economy is being de-marketed and the livelihood of the average Nigerian is being diminished by this incessant bickering.

‘’One is beginning to wonder if the wellbeing of more than 200 million Nigerians is being factored into their negotiations.”

It also implored the government to endeavour to re-engage the leadership of the unions and find an amicable ground to avert any disruption in business activities that will attend the nationwide strike.

The OPS stated,

“Government should demonstrate good faith in keeping to its promises during the negotiations with labour and abstain from making promises they cannot or do not intend to keep.

“On the other hand, labour should do a realistic assessment of its demands within the context of prevailing economic realities and possibilities, while going the extra mile to indicate how its demands could be met.’’

Elliot Ibie, the President of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, confirmed that his fellow pilots and engineers would cease work in accordance with the instructions from the NLC.

Likewise, Ben Nnabue, the President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, affirmed that NUATE would join the strike.

However, Emmanuel Jaja, the Deputy President of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, expressed that  “ATSSAN is under the Trade Union Congress, so we wait to get direction from our centre. As soon as we get directions from our labour centre which is the TUC national, we take it from there.’’

Mr. John Ikemefule, the Media Head of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, also confirmed that maritime workers would close down both the ports and jetties starting from Tuesday.

He added,

“It has been confirmed that the union will be joining the NLC and TUC to shut down the country from October 3rd. There will be a total and indefinite shutdown of the country. We are going to withdraw our members from jetties and terminals.’’

Mr. John Ikemefule, the Media Head of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, also confirmed that maritime workers would close down both the ports and jetties starting from Tuesday,

“As an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress, we are bound by the resolutions until otherwise advised.

“We, however, expect that the government will act in good not just by making public pronouncements but actualising such statements without delay.”

In the meantime, Tajudeen Abbas, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has urged organized labor to reconsider its scheduled industrial action due to the economic difficulties confronting the nation.

During a plenary session that marked the return of lawmakers from a two-month annual recess, Abbas made this appeal. He emphasized the legislators’ dedication to improving the well-being of Nigerian workers through comprehensive legislative measures and other crucial initiatives.

He pointed out that the struggles to meet daily necessities were the motivating factor behind the NLC’s planned action

“Seems to have lost patience with the painstaking effort of the government to plan and provide sustainable minimum wage and palliatives to citizens.”

“As the peoples’ representatives, we feel and equally share in the pains of our people at these very difficult times. However, I would like to appeal to the NLC to consider the various actions being taken by the Federal Government to alleviate the current hardship faced by Nigerians,’’ he said.

Abass guaranteed that the 10th House would facilitate communication between organized labor and the government to promptly develop a practical new national minimum wage and implement other relief measures.

Admonishing his colleagues to prioritise the needs of Nigerians, the speaker noted that

“When people are hungry and despondent, what is needed is a leadership with a clear vision, a leadership that daily, demonstrates its commitment and capacity to tackle the challenges at hand; a leadership that should be innovative in proffering short- and long-term solutions.

‘’That is what Nigerians need at this time and as representatives of the people, we must rise to the occasion. It is our considered opinion that embarking on a nationwide strike at this point will only aggravate an already bad situation.

‘’I, therefore, urge the leadership of labour unions to give us the benefit of doubt and suspend any planned strike action while we engage the Executive.”

The Speaker encouraged his fellow lawmakers to prepare to swiftly review the 2024 Appropriation Bill, which is scheduled for presentation in the coming weeks, stating that “We must diligently consider the bill to ensure that it meets the needs of our constituents.”

Likewise, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, has appealed to the FG to address the economic crisis the nation is currently grappling with following the removal of the fuel subsidy.

The organization also called upon the government to heed the NLC’s requests to prevent the scheduled labor strike.

These sentiments were expressed in a statement released following a gathering of the group at the home of its acting National Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, in Isanya Ogbo, Ogun State, on Tuesday.

 

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