The Federal Government under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in an effort to avert the Nigeria Labour Congress’ warning strike scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, has shown interest in resuming talks with the organised labours.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, made this known in an interview with PUNCH on Saturday, September 2, 2023.
According to him, the government would meet with leaders of the union to avert the looming 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.
Speaking in the interview, the minister of information said; “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.”
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.