TUC differs with NLC over 2-day protest after DSS warning

The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has frowned on the decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to unilaterally decide on the planned two-day nationwide protest slated for February 27 and 28.

The TUC, in a letter addressed to the President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero said it was wrong for the NLC to declare a two-day national protest without consulting with her after jointly issuing a 14-day ultimatum on the same matter.

The letter, which was obtained by our reporter, was signed by the Secretary-General of TUC, Nuhu Toro dated February 19.

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The 14-day ultimatum issued by both labour centres over the non – implementation of the 16- point Memorandum of Understanding would end on February 22.

This is happening as the Department of State Services warned organised Labour against the planned mass action, saying it could be hijacked.

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The letter reads; “We convey compliments from the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), particularly the President of Congress, Comrade (Engr) Festus Osifo, and write to convey our displeasure on the above subject matter.

“We are writing to address a matter of mutual concern and our disappointment regarding the recent unilateral issuance of two days’ national protest with specified dates.

“You will recall that both centers issued a joint statement with a 14-day ultimatum to the federal government. This ultimatum will expire on Thursday, 22nd of February and the right thing to do was for both leaderships to review the situation and agree on the way forward preceding convening our respective NEC meetings.

“Our respective NEC made up of highly intelligent individuals, who are desirous that we both work together always in our collective interest, even if we didn’t anticipate our NEC decision meetings, it is our responsibility as leaders to harmonize our positions before jointly going to the press.

“It was our understanding that decisions of such magnitude would be made collectively, ensuring that the interests and perspectives of all parties involved are duly considered.

“This is the way other leaders of both centers have worked together from the time of SECSCAN to when TUC was formally registered,” the letter reads in part.

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The letter further states: “It is important to stress that this is the third time such unilateral declaration is happening under your leadership, we are therefore constrained to formally put this on record as various discussion, communications and interventions have failed. First and second time could pass as human error but a third time would in our opinion translate to an intentional act to undermine us.

“Again, recall we requested that both congresses should jointly develop an MOU that will clearly guide and define our collaboration on issues of mutual interest to avoid situations like this, which has not seen the light of the day.

“Comrade President, also note that we are not averse to the issuance of your resolution because our members equally feel the pain, even if it’s a weeklong national strike, but we have a huge problem with the unilateral declaration for a process we both muted and agreed, because our members are equally concerned about the rising cost of living and not particularly the ultimatum, why can’t we see through the ultimatum that expires within the same period before jointly addressing other issues of mutual concern or at worst consolidate them?

“At best when the NLC conveyed its NEC meeting on subject of mutual concern, courtesy demands that we ought to have been informed so we can synergize on the way forward and not to jump the gun.

“We cannot be seen to undermine the process of synergy and collaboration between both centers that predates the current leadership of both congresses.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we fully understand that NLC is an independent labour center that has the right to take independent decision, it is pertinent that when such decisions are taken unilaterally, there is need to go ahead and implement unilaterally.

“We wish to postulate that both centers have demonstrated severally that we both have the capacity to go solo but my comrade President, you will agree with the slogan we couched for this unity that “we are always stronger together” and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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“We want you to always remember that we have teeming members that we lead and are answerable to; when such abnormally happens the leadership has the right to defend the sanctity of its congress.

“Recall this same issue of unilateral decision, was what made us stay away from the two days warning strike that you staged in September last year.

“The entire world noticed our collective strength when the governor of Imo state overstepped his bound, and we rose to the occasion.

“That is the kind of synergy and collaboration that we yearn for and that we strongly believe the Nigerian working people and the down trodden are looking from our collaborative efforts of working together.

“As you are aware of our previous discussions that cumulated into a late-night meeting at the NUEE Lodge, Utako last year after the unilateral decision of a two days warning strike and several other interventions which emphasized the importance of mutual respect, collaboration and effective communication in matters affecting workers and the masses.

“Congress was greatly taken aback and dismayed to learn that you addressed the press and announced the dates for the nationwide protest without consulting us.

“Making arrangement for press is even an indication that you have an idea of what the outcome of the NEC meeting would be. This action undermines the spirit of solidarity and cooperation that we have worked hard to foster.

“Nonetheless, we wish to state that such unilateral actions are contrary to the principles of our shared understanding and collaboration. In order to uphold the integrity of our partnership and ensure that the voices of all workers are heard, it is imperative that decisions of this nature be made through open dialogue and consensus-building.

“We kindly urge you to reconsider your approach and to engage in meaningful consultation with all parties moving forward as we will always do same when the table turns. By doing so, we can reaffirm our commitment to working together for the betterment of workers’ rights and welfare”.

…We are one family – NLC

And in its response, the NLC denied undermining its TUC counterpart, saying we remain one family.

In an interview last night with Blueprint correspondent, NLC Assistant General Secretary Comrade Chris Onyeka said both the NLC and TUC are one family and wouldn’t have reasons to undermine each other.

“We are one family, what really was that there was need to call for NEC meeting after the joint press statement issued by both NLC and TUC on the situations in the country.

“At the meeting after endorsing the decision taken by the leadership of both centers on the 14-day ultimatum which would elapsed tomorrow (Thursday), the members of NEC while recognizing the current hardship in the country, resolved that there is need to embark on a protest to save as a warning to the government.

“They also mandated the leadership to liaise with the TUC on the said protest. I can also tell you that the leadership have met with TUC on this. What could lead to them taking about undermining might be due to communication gap. We cannot undermine ourselves because all of us are workers,” Onyeka said.

DSS warns Labour

Speaking on the planned protests, the DSS spokesman, Peter Afunanya, in a statement on Wednesday called on the NLC to shelve the plan.

He urged the NLC not to embark on the protests in the interest of peace and public order, stating that going ahead with the protests could increase tension across the country.

The statement read, “The attention of the DSS has been drawn to plans by sections of the organised labour to stage protests between 27th and 28th February 2024 in parts of the country over sundry economic issues.

“While the service recognises such an action as the legitimate right of the labour movement, it, however, urges the body to shelve the plan in the interest of peace and public order.

“The DSS further calls on parties to pursue dialogue and negotiation rather than engaging in conducts that could heighten tensions.

“This is more so that the service is aware that some elements are planning to use the opportunity of the protest to foment crisis and by extension, widespread violence. The development, without doubt, will worsen the socio-economic situation across the country.”

It urged opposition groups, religious and traditional institutions, civil society, and non-governmental bodies to eschew violence.

“Making political capital out of the current situation or involving in divisive utterances at a time like this, will be of no benefit to any peace-loving Nigerian. Citizens are advised to be vigilant and not allow fifth columnists and hostile forces or agents to use them to destabilise the peace of the nation, “ it warned.

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