By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE spate of industrial unrest in the country may worsen next week as affiliates of the United Labour Congress of Nigeria, including Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, and National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Employees, NUBIFIE, gear up for a nationwide strike.
Already, while members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, have been on strike for over three weeks, their National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, counterpart, Monday, September 4, began an indefinite strike over unresolved grievances with the federal government.
Among other affiliates of ULC that may down tools are Nigeria Union of Mine Workers, National Association of Aviation Professionals, Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria, Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Union of Railway Workers, Private Telecommunications, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Union of Shop and Distributive Employees.
Inauguration of a strike committee
Meanwhile, ahead of ULC’s planned strike, the leadership of the Labour centre has few days ago announced the inauguration of a strike committee to mobilize and prosecute the action as the the two weeks ultimatum given to the Federal Government to address its demands expires tomorrow.
It will be recalled that at its Central Working Committee, CWC, meeting in Lagos, on Tuesday, August 22, ULC demanded that the federal government “bans the stationing of the Army and Police in our workplaces and factory premises. This will stop employers who are now colluding with the Army and other security agencies from setting up garrisons in our factories for the purposes of intimidating and harassing workers in order to deny them their rights and privileges. The Army and the Police should immediately withdraw their garrisons in the different workplaces where they are currently stationed;
“•That the government should demand that the Federal Ministry of Labour sets up a task force immediately to carry out factory inspections as most of our factories are death traps. “An immediate review of the Privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to save Nigerians the agony of suffering under the suffocating darkness which the GENCOs and DISCOs have foisted on the nation; “That the federal government should immediately prevail on AMCON and the receiver manager of Delta Steel Company Ovwian Aladja who short-paid workers by 75 per cent to quickly rectify it and repay the deficit.
“•That the government immediately pays all the arrears of salaries owed Nigerian workers at all levels without exception.
“•That the federal government honours its 2009 agreement with university lecturers under the umbrella of ASUU quickly and commence negotiations with them on new issues so that our universities will re-open;
“•That the roads leading to all the petroleum refineries and depots nation-wide be repaired by the government to end the present carnage of lives, wastage of products and properties on these roads;
“•That the proposed Bill at the National Assembly seeking to control free speech couched under the guise of the Bill against hate speech but has the real intention of protecting the ruling elite from being held accountable by the citizenry. We, therefore, demand the stoppage of that obnoxious Bill by whoever sponsored it.
“•That the withholding of registration certificate of the ULC be stopped and the certificate released forthwith so that the nation’s Industrial Relations clime will be made more inclusive and robust;
“•The immediate inclusion of all representatives of labour in the various committees, agencies and directorates of government and not singling out just one centre for these purposes negating the tenets of the nation’s Laws. Any of such appointments that have been done contrary to this, we demand an immediate reversal; and
“•The immediate inauguration of the national minimum wage negotiating committee in line with the above so that it can commence sitting instantly.”
Leaders of the group had warned that “if these demands are not met within two weeks of this date, the ULC shall embark on Industrial actions to assist your Government respect the interests of workers and the citizenry.”
Announcing the strike committee in a statement, General Secretary of ULC, Mr. Didi Adodo, said “we want to inform you that the Strike Committee which that same CWC-in-session established has commenced work in earnest. It is a large committee made up of 15-members drawn from some industrial unions who are affiliates of the ULC.
It is headed by Comrade Kasimu Kadiri; the General Secretary of Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria, SEWUN, and a national vice president of the ULC as the Chairman and Comrade Onyeka Chris; Deputy General Secretary of ULC as the Secretary. ULC wants to be prepared to ensure that we carry out an industrial action that would be very effective and compel the federal Government of Nigeria and Governors to listen to the cries of Nigerian workers and masses.
“We believe that it is our duties to assist this Government make Governance more effective so that as a people and as a nation, we shall begin to break one by one the shackles of suffering which underdevelopment has foisted on us. For the avoidance of doubt, we want to reiterate that if these demands as once again stated below are not met on or before the expiration of this ultimatum on the Friday, the 8th of September, we shall be forced to embark on this nation-wide strike.”