NLC: Labour to declare indefinite strike, mobilises state councils for showdown

Despite entreaties from the Organised Private Sector (OPS), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said it has fully mobilised its 152 state councils and affiliates ahead of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting today, to decide on a date for an indefinite nationwide strike, urging Nigerians to expect total impact nationwide.

NLC might declare strike by midnight, even as the highest decision-making organ, the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the Congress meets today to release an official date.

The meeting would be held virtually, in a circular conveyed by NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja.  Already, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, had indicated that the Federal Government had more than enough time to resolve the dispute and address the concerns of the labour movement, but chose to play to the gallery.

In spite of moves by critical stakeholders, including private sector operators and Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs) plea to labour unions and Federal Government to come to terms, the NLC source said: “NLC cannot have a change of mind when nothing has been done by the government. We are looking at tomorrow (Tuesday), the Congress will decide on the way to go. It is as simple as that. Anybody that says NLC is changing its mind is just speculating.

“Let the government do the right thing, have they not been given enough time to act? This is almost four months since the ‘subsidy is gone forever’ proclamation by the President.”   He debunked reports making the rounds that the Federal Government is expected to meet with labour today.

The threat of industrial action follows expiration of labour’s 21-day ultimatum for government to address the mass suffering and impoverishment experienced around the country, which was occasioned by removal of fuel subsidy.

Also, the labour union and Federal Government have failed to come to terms over relief measures following removal of fuel subsidy.  NLC President has said Nigerians should expect total impact when it finally declares its proposed strike. Ajaero gave the indication when he appeared on Arise Television yesterday.

“For the total, indefinite strike, Nigerians should expect total impact,” he said. According to the union leader, the Federal Government should have put necessary measures in place before removing subsidy.

He added: “Within minutes the subsidy was removed, we resisted and said no, return it back to status quo so that we can discuss. They said ask for palliatives, ask for wage increase. Now that we have asked, they can’t provide them and they have vacated the negotiation table.”

MEANWHILE, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has threatened to take its protest to the national level if the Lagos State government fails to urgently open offices belonging to the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) and release seized properties belonging to the union.

President of TUC, Festus Osifo, said this yesterday, during a peaceful protest embarked upon by the union over the proscription of RTEAN and seizure of their vehicles and other valuables by the Lagos State government.

The protest, which began as early as 7:00a.m., had the unionists marched from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) to the Lagos House of Assembly at Alausa, displaying various placards to register their displeasure and calling on the state government to meet their demands.

Osifo accused the state government of encouraging criminality, saying: “When they invaded the RTEAN office, they took away money, documents and vehicles belonging to TUC. That for us is criminality. I don’t know why Lagos State is encouraging criminality and stealing, because, for us, we are a country that is led by the rule of law.”

Presenting a letter to the state’s House of Assembly Deputy Majority Leader, Adedamola Kasunmu, in company of other lawmakers, Osifo said the protest became necessary, as the government has failed to yield to court judgment and request of the union on the matter.

“We believe that this is not acceptable. We know that trade unionism is not on the Concurrent list and so a state government does not have the power to proscribe a trade union. This is the responsibility of the Federal Government.

“We approached the National Industrial Court (NIC) for judgment and it was clearly stated that the Lagos State government has no right to proscribe trade unions.

“We wrote a letter to the state governor to open the office of RTEAN, which they forcefully took over and released their vehicles, which were seized by government officials, I can tell you that the government is already using the vehicles,” Osifo added.  Kasunmu, who received the letter and spoke on behalf of the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, assured that the worker’s yearnings would be addressed.

“The Speaker is a proactive and efficient leader and he will definitely do justice to the letter you have presented. When we sit at plenary, your letter will be presented and I assure you that you will hear from the state government soon,” he said, urging the protesters to return peacefully and await a response from the House.

In its reaction, the Lagos State government said the TUC protest against the suspension of RTEAN was in breach of the Rule of Law. In a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, the Rule of Law expects both parties to maintain the status quo pending determination of the application for a stay of execution and appeal.

He declared that the exercise was unnecessary and meant to arm-twist and intimidate the government, especially considering all the efforts being made to resolve the matter amicably.

Omotoso recalled that a 35-man Ad-hoc Caretaker Committee was constituted by the government to manage the state’s parks and garages under the control of RTEAN pending the resolution of the internal dispute and to immediately stop the violence in some parts of the state. This move was in line with the recommendations of the Y2004 White Paper on Transport Union Matters in the state. He urged both labour unions to embrace dialogue, stating that such an approach was “better and safer for our economic and social well-being.”

Culled from The Guardian