•Accuses NLC of lording it over TUC; NLC reacts
By Victor Ahiuma-Young
BUT for January 24 announcement by the Federal Government that it was shelving the planned subsidy removal on petrol and its attendant petrol pump price increase, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its affiliates would have held last week’s suspended nationwide protest alongside their Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, allies without the second Labour Centre in the country, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and its affiliates.
Reason is that the leaders of TUC have declared “war” on NLC, accusing NLC of ‘lording it over’ TUC especially on issues of national importance such as the suspended nationwide strike.
Recall that NLC and its leaders had late last year declared Thursday, January 27, as a day for nationwide protest against subsidy removal ahead of national strike should government go ahead to remove subsidy on petrol and consequently hike the pump price of petrol in February as earlier contemplated, and mobilised members and CSOs allies, among others.
However, TUC and its affiliates had, a week earlier, dissociated themselves from the January 27 planned protest and given indication that they would organise theirs at a later date.
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Vanguard investigation revealed that TUC’s quarrel with NLC has been on for a long time over alleged NLC penchant for taking unilateral and sweeping decisions on behalf of Organised Labour without consulting TUC. Things came to a head when NLC announced plans to organise a nationwide protest without intimating or carrying TUC along as Labour Centre.
One of the leaders of TUC who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said one needed to be present at last week’s meeting of TUC Central Working Committee, CWC, and National Executive Council, NEC, to see the anger and bitterness members exhibited against NLC’s perceived arrogance and disregard for TUC.
According to him: “Most of the speakers at both meetings detailed what they considered the many sins of NLC and the fact that NLC does not see TUC as a social partner that needs to be carried along on national issues.
“NLC sees TUC as its servant and expects TUC to fall in and work along with it once it takes a decision, NLC sees itself as the voice of Organised Labour in the country and once it takes decisions, TUC must follow.
“We are a registered Labour Centre of equal value in the eyes of the law like the NLC. But NLC sees us as inconsequential body that should not be carried along on national issues affecting workers of this country.
“We represent very senior and if I may add, intelligent crop of workers in this country that know their onions and have stake in the scheme of things in this country.
“If you do not know, the government through the Ministry of Finance and Petroleum Resources, before now and in fact, for a very long time, has been trying to woo workers in Oil and Gas sector including our affiliate, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, to support the full deregulation of the downstream sector of the Petroleum Industry.
“The government officials tried and persuaded the oil workers to accept the total deregulation because it will favour them. But for their patriotism and loyalty, they insisted that what their umbrella body decides, is what they will abide by.
”If NLC thinks it will continue to lord it over us or that it can fight alone, no problem. We also have the capacity to fight alone.
“That is what we have decided. In other words, until NLC decides to take us into confidence and work with us in deciding joint response to national issues, then ‘to your tent o Israel.’ We will do our thing in our own way and let NLC do its thing in its own way.
“Nevertheless, we can assure our members, the suffering masses of this country and other social partners that we will never compromise in fighting, defending and agitating for things that will improve their living conditions and make life better for them.”
We can organise protest without notifying TUC — NLC
Reacting, one of the senior leaders of NLC, who spoke to Vanguard in confidence, dismissed the TUC position as mere misunderstanding between issue of protest and strike.
According to him: “We see TUC as our partners and we will continue to see it so. But let me make it clear that once it is about protest, we can organise and hold protest without getting TUC notified officially if you like.
“But if it is a national strike, where we want to shutdown the system, everybody has to be involved especially TUC and other social partners including the CSOs, traders, informal sector workers, artisans and so on.
“In protest, we may not need most of these allies because we are not intending to shut down operations, cripple businesses among others.
“Go back to history maybe from 2010; we have been organising nationwide protests on national issues. We don’t necessarily carry TUC along, but if they join, all well and good.
“But if it is a national strike, we have to get everybody involved from inception to conclusion because the aims and objectives of protest are different from that of national strike.
“We do not have any issue with our sister Labour Centre. They are our social partners and we will continue to work with them to better the lots of Nigerians especially workers and the suffering masses.
“I can assure you that we have no problem with TUC leaders, affiliates and members. We are all working for the good of Nigerian workers and masses.”