In its desperate effort to avert the Nigeria Labour Congress’ warning strike scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Federal Government says it is ready to meet with the labour union on Monday.
However, the labour union said there was no going back on the two-day warning strike, even as it affirmed that it remained open to negotiations with the government despite breaking its previous promises.
Already, some state chapters of the NLC said they were ready to proceed with the strike, while some others said their executive committee would meet on Monday as a precursor to the strike.
The 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 the 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”.
The union accused the Federal Government of abandoning negotiations and failing to implement some of the resolutions from previous engagements with the government.
The labour union 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 today (Friday) until steps are taken by the government to address the excruciating mass suffering and impoverishment being experienced around the country.”
On the other reasons for the strike, it accused the police of laying siege to the national headquarters of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, alleged violation of rights and privileges of workers and trade unions in Imo State, interference in trade union matters by the Abia State Government, proposed demolition of houses by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, among others.
The organised labour had on August 2 staged a one-day protest on the economic hardship in the country, an action that grounded activities in many states and the FCT.
Following the declaration of the strike, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, told Sunday PUNCH in an interview on Saturday that the government would meet with leaders of the union to avert the looming strike.
He said In a telephone interview, “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. 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 issue.”
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 conviction that the matter would be resolved before then.
He stated, “This Is why I said we are trying to find a common ground to avert the impending strike. Once this is achieved, the other one would have been taken care of.”
‘No going back’
Meanwhile, the NLC said on Saturday that the Federal Government had yet to meet with it since it announced the warning strike, noting however that it was ready for negotiation.
The Assistant National Secretary, Christopher Onyeka, said, “They 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 to meet despite its accusation that the government had broken its promises three times, he stated, “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 the 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. They cannot treat Nigerians 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, so they should listen to us. They should listen to the position of Nigerians. As leaders, don’t just listen to foreign bodies, you listen to Nigerians.”
He called on Nigerians to continue to hold the government accountable. “If we don’t save this country, we may no longer have one,” he added.
States express readiness
In Ogun State, the NLC Chairman, Hameed Ademola, on Saturday disclosed that the union was already mobilising its members for the strike in compliance with the directive of its national leadership.
Ademola told one of our correspondents 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, including the 36 states and the FCT, Abuja, should proceed on warning strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“So, we are fully prepared to observe this and make it a very successful outing.”
In Zamfara State, the state chairman of the NLC, Sani Halliru, said the union would go on warning strike as instructed by the national body.
Halliru, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said the North-West zone of the union had met in Kaduna where it was decided that the two-day warning strike action would be complied with.
He added, “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.
“We are ready to abide by whatever decision taken by the national body of the NLC. I am calling on all our members to remain calm and wait for further directives.”
In Abia State, the union chairman, Pascal Nweke Iheme, directed members to comply with the national directive. “We just met with affiliate union leaders today 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.
In Sokoto State, the chairman of the union, Abdullahi Jungle, disclosed that workers in the state were ready to join the strike.
Speaking with newsmen on Saturday, he stated that members of the council would meet on Sunday to agree on the modalities.
“Yes, we are joining the strike as we are already mobilising our members for the strike,” he said. “We are holding a meeting tomorrow (Sunday) on how to go about it, but I can assure you that we will join the strike.”
In Osun State, the Chairman of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Mr Adebowale Adekola, said labour leaders in the state were ready to mobilise workers for the warning strike.
Adekola, who lamented the current economic hardship facing Nigerians following the removal of subsidy on fuel, said promises made to cushion the effects of the removal were not being fulfilled.
He added, “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. 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.”
In Lagos State, the NLC Chairman, Funmi Sessi, told one of our correspondents that mobilisation would commence on 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 action starts on Tuesday,” she stated.
In Ekiti State, the leadership of the NLC said the decision on the two-day warning strike was a collective one and as such its members would participate.
The chairman of the union, Kolapo Olatunde, said, “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 council would meet on Monday to discuss the 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 with one of our correspondents on Saturday, said, “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 because we returned from Abuja on Friday and today (Saturday) is weekend.
“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.”
In Kwara State, the NLC said 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.
The NLC Chairman In the state, Saheed Olayinka, told Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, “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 of the strike.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress in the state, Tunde Joseph, said the state council was awaiting a directive from its national secretariat so as to know what to do.
In Benue State, the NLC Chairman, Terungwa Igbe, said the union would meet on Monday to finalise on the warning strike.
Igbe in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents said the members would sit at home and not go on a protest.
He stated, “There Is a difference between protest and strike; no one is protesting now but to sit back at home on Tuesday and Wednesday. Meanwhile, we are meeting on Monday to finalise everything, but workers will sit back and not go to work. No protest.”
Also in Bayelsa State, the state chapter of the NLC said it had scheduled meetings for Monday in Yenagoa, the state capital, to deliberate on the strike.
The state chairman, Simon Barnabas, in his response to an enquiry by one of our correspondents, said the meetings would involve relevant organs of the congress, particularly the State Administrative Council and State Executive Council.
“We have slated both SAC & SEC meetings for Monday”, Barnabas added.
Meanwhile, in Katsina State, workers said on Saturday that they were still waiting for the directive of the national headquarters to know the form the warning strike would take.
The chairman of the state chapter of the TUC, Mallam Muntari Ruma, said, “We are still waiting for the NLC directives on the forms that the warning strike would take from the national headquarters. You can call me back by Monday morning. By that time, we would have received necessary and appropriate directives.”