By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Crisis rocking the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, ahead of National Delegates Conference, NDC, taking place between February 9 and 11 in Abuja, has deepened as more facts emerged over the purported betrayal of private sector unions by public sector unions.
Labour Vanguard investigations revealed that in order to aviod rancour and disaffection, in congress over the presidency between the private sector and the public sector unions and other elective positions, two sectors, stakeholders set up Unity Forum, UF, bringing presidents and general secretaries of affiliate unions together to hamoniously shared elective positions.
It was gathered that all industrial unions embraced the UF and made both financial and personnel commitments towards its success.
After which, it was gathered that officials were elected and responsibilities assigned following which commitments were made towards a peaceful conference.
According to Labour Vanguard’s findings, several meetings were held leading to an all important meeting of December 30, 2014, at Planet One, Maryland, Ikeja, where elective positions into the leadership of NLC (National Administrative Council, NAC,) were shared between the sectors.
According to the sharing formula, Labour Vanguard gathered, having conceded the presidency to the private sector, the remaining positions were shared in the ratio of 9 to the public sector and 7 to the private sector.
It was gathered that the meeting agreed to this resolution and adjourned to January 3, 2015, to finalise this position.
While all these were going on, unknown to the private sector unions, some of the public sector unions had other agenda.
Labour Vanguard findings, indicated that the public sector unions were merely playing for time and deceptively, kept the private sector unions waiting to no avail, until it dawned on the private sector unions that they were not only betrayed by the public sector unions, but were at the verge of submitting the nomination forms late, which would have meant disqualification.
An impeccable source told Labour Vanguard that the private sector unions are insisting on Planet One accord and would not accept anything less.
From the list of contestants cleared to contest for positions during the conference, if the list stands, the implications are better imagined than experienced.
Arguably, only a few of individuals in the list if elected, can influence things that could take the movement out of the present doldrums.
In fact, there are fears that incoming leadership may take the NLC deeper into oblivion and widen the increasing parallel lines between congress and the shop floor workers.
If the list stands and conference goes ahead with the list, political hawks and schemers in NLC may have successfully shut out Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and some other critical private sector unions from NLC leadership. And from all indications, equally shut out are from the leadership of congress Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE.
Can one imagines a mass action or national strike declared by congress and NUPENG, MWUN, NUEE, NURTW and these critical private sector unions fail to give total support? The implication is better imagined than experienced.
By technically excluding these unions from the leadership of congress, the cabal and labour contractors holding congress hostage, may have successfully destroyed the unity and cohesion in the movement.
Whether anybody wants to accept it or not, these unions are the most critical and potent affiliates of NLC.
In fact, while government or employers may decide to ignore many other affiliates of congress, they cannot afford the luxury of a strike by NURTW, MWUN, NUPENG and NUEE. Individually or collectively, these unions have the capacity to collectively or individually cripple the economy of the country.
Recall that under a forward looking and progressively minded Comrade Adams Oshiomhole leadership of NLC, strategically, NUPENG, MWUN and NURTW were parts of the leadership of NLC.
Before Comrade Oshiomhole left in 2007, he made sure these strategic and critical unions including NUEE, remained part of the leadership of Congress.
It did not end there, Comrade Oshiomhole made sure that the leadership of NLC included labour leaders with critical minds, those who could influence things in their unions and also command the respect of their employers, not just those who wanted to use NLC platform as ego and vehicle for personal aggrandizement.
But today, even those that will retire this year are part of the incoming NLC leadership, those who should have ended their tenures as leaders of their unions, who refused to hold their unions’ delegates conference for close to two years, those who after serving as presidents of their unions, transmuted to unions’ scribes, those who deliberately undermined and weakened their unions’ secretariats through authoritarianism, and those from their actions and antecedents, are nothing but hypocrites are forming the incoming leadership of Congress.
From all indications, the incoming NLC leadership will be dominated by individuals who are sit-tight, self-centred, labour contractors, government/employers’ apologists who are without moral, intellectual and charismatic capacities to galvanise workers for mass action against anti-labour policies.
The unfortunate thing about some of these incoming leaders, is that in their previous responsibilities in congress, besides where they allegedly helped themselves to feed fat, they were found wanting in core labour issues such as casualisation, retrenchment, unionization, and workers wellbeing. There is no gainsaying the fact that these are armchair labour leaders without a history of struggle and have been on picketing line.