Above picture: A self-captioned photo of a creative placard taken at a 2016 protest.
TALKS between the federal government and organised labour were again inconclusive on Thursday, September 24, 2020 as the meeting between representatives of the federal government, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) failed to produce any consensus on the grievances of labour.
The meeting, which held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja lasted well into the night before parties agreed to adjourn and reconvene on Monday, September 28, 2020, when the general strike and peaceful protest declared by the NLC would have commenced.
President of TUC, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, told journalists after the meeting that the two centres are going ahead with the mobilisation for the nationwide strike and protest if the federal government failed to reverse or suspend the fuel price increment and electricity tariff hike by the midnight of Sunday, September 27, 2020.
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“We were not the one that adjourned the meeting. The government adjourned it till Monday. Monday is the expiration of the ultimatum and we are still very much focused on that. It is a deadlock now.
“Of course, that will not stop the action that has been put in place. We have told them to reverse or to suspend, while the discussion goes on on Monday. So, labour is left with no option but to go our way,” the TUC President stated, adding that labour leaders came to the meeting with an open mind to find a solution to the issues in contention.
“We are coming with an open mind to find a solution to the problems in the country, especially on the price hike. They have made their proposal, but we are saying let us suspend or reverse, then we can now continue to discuss but they have adjourned. But labour will continue with the mobilisation of workers,” Comrade Quadri said.
On his part, Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, said there was a fruitful discussion and that Monday’s meeting is meant to conclude the discussions. He therefore gave assurances that the NLC and TUC leaders would heed government’s pleas to suspend their planned strike.
Apart from Dr Ngige who led the government delegation to the meeting, other government representatives include the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, the Minister of Power, Engr. Mamman Saleh; Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Timipre Sylva; Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; and the Minister of State, Labour, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN).
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State Councils, Affiliates Intensify Mobilisation for Strike
Meanwhile, state councils and affiliates of the NLC have intensified mobilisation and other preparations for the strike and protests billed for Monday.
Findings by National Record indicate that the Lagos State Council of the NLC, which oversees the activities of workers in the nation’s commercial hub, held its organ meetings along with an expanded congress of workers which included labour’s civil society allies.
The Chairperson of the Lagos State Council of NLC, Comrade Agnes Funmi Sessi, told National Record in a whatsapp message that NLC’s State Administrative Council (SAC) and State Executive Council (SEC) held a joint emergency congress on Thursday with the TUC affiliates and civil society allies of organised labour in attendance to fine tune the mobilisation strategies.
According to Comrade Sessi, the state leadership of NLC used the meeting to “reiterate and confirm the position of our various national bodies and the yearnings of the poor masses and Nigerian citizens to commence a total and indefinite strike action/protest rally to force government to make a reversal on the increased tariff on electricity and PMS price.”
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She further stated that “we are also using the strike to tell the government to ensure the turnaround maintenance of the 4 refineries and to make it work to full capacity where crude will be processed to fuel [locally].
“We are baffled and worried about the approval given by the National Assembly for the government to commence the Railway line project from Nigeria to Niger. We view this as an economic sabotage and a misplaced priority.
“We heard the breaking news about court injunctions gotten by a strange body to stop us from exercising our legal rights of gathering for a peaceful protest.
“We are not deterred by the antics of government and their stooges, but we shall go ahead with our plans as we remain unstoppable in this quest to free ourselves from this oppressive and repressive government.
In Nasarawa State, the NLC State Council of the NLC said workers in the state are ready to commence the strike. Comrade Yusuf Sarki Iya, the council’s Chairperson in a telephone interview with National Record confirmed that apart from NLC and TUC councils, affiliate industrial unions councils in the state are equally meeting to perfect mobilisation strategies.
He said: “So far so good, we are even holding a session now of my union, the Nigerian Civil Service Union, to discuss the enforcement of the strike action.
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“TUC just held meetings of its organs this morning. We will be having a joint meeting of NLC and TUC either on Saturday or Sunday to strategise on the best way to approach the strike action.
“We are ever ready for the struggle although we await further directives from our national headquarters.”
Our finding indicate that in all the states, workers and affiliate unions are in various stages of preparation and mobilisation as they gear up for a total shutdown of government and commercial activities across all the states of the federation if the government the federal government fails to hid to the demands of organised labour.
Banks, financial institutions Workers Directed to Shut down Activities
The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) has directed its Zonal Councils and Domestic Committee Units, to ensure total compliance to the strike directive from the National Secretariat of the NLC.
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The General Secretary of (NUBIFIE), Comrade Mohammed I. Sheikh, in a general circular entitled; “Notice of Nationwide Strike,” enjoined all members of the union in organisations and Zonal Councils to comply with the strike directive.
The circular states: “The National Executive Council (NEC) of Nigeria Labour Congress in their meeting on Tuesday 22nd September, 2020 resolved to embark on nationwide strike as from Monday 28th September, 2020 over hike in the pump price of petrol and Electricity tariff.
“In this regard, you are therefore directed by this letter to ensure total compliance of this directive by your organization/Zonal Council.”