…Says strike will worsen plight of Nigerians
…Summons stakeholders to round table
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE Federal Government on Monday made desperate efforts to avert the proposed two day warning strike being organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, over the worsening economic situation in the country.
Already, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Rt. Hon. Simon Lalong has summoned meeting involving all relevant stakeholders including the leadership of NLC to a negotiation meeting in Abuja.
Briefing journalists in his office, the Minister appealed to the organised Labour to shelve their strike in the interest of Nigerians in order to allow all stakeholders to work towards amicable resolution of the contending issues on ground.
Lalong said that the NLC was yet to furnish his office with letter on their proposed action, saying he got to know of their plans through media reports.
Recall that the NLC after its National Executive Council, NEC meeting on Thursday last week, threatened to embark on a two day warning strike on September 5 and 6.
The apex union had hinged the proposed action on excruciating suffering being experienced by Nigerians following the removal of fuel subsidy, including what it termed undue interference in the activities of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
But the Labour Minister said, “In light of these matters, I would like to reiterate my appeal to the leadership of the NLC to suspend their planned 2-day warning strike, and subsequent future actions, and to allow us to work together to amicably resolve these issues rather than embark on actions that would further worsen the conditions of the citizens of Nigeria,” Lalong had stated on Monday.
Acknowledging workers constraints, Lalong said Mr. President stated several times, that he is not unaware that the implementation of these vital but difficult policies, come along with a measure of hardship for all of us citizens of this country.
He explained that the Federal Government took these decisions now rather than delay them further and put the nation into more difficulties that might be impossible to reverse.
Lalong also noted that government has started taking steps to cushion the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy which are being implemented by the three tiers of Government.
According to him, “While some of these policies are being planned and fine-tuned, others are being rolled out as palliative measures to bring temporary relief to Nigerians. On the long run, the government of President Tinubu will put in place measures that will empower the people as well as create jobs and prosperity.
“As we continue in this direction therefore, we must ensure that there is a robust line of communication with Nigerians and in particular the organised labour to forestall a breakdown of industrial peace which would no doubt reverse some of the gains already made.
“In this context, it has become pertinent to appeal to the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), to suspend its intended 2-days warning strike, as such action would be detrimental to the gains already being recorded on our course to securing a greater future for Nigerian workers and citizens at large.
“I would request that the Comrade Leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress gives this Government some time to settle and address the issues on the ground holistically.
“It should be realised that the Cabinet of this administration was only recently sworn in by Mr. President and all cabinet members have hit the ground running by receiving briefings from their MDAs. Therefore, the issues raised by the leadership of the NLC are some issues that I and the Hon. Minister of State for Labour and Employment are being briefed upon. In the next few weeks, we intend to address them holistically.
“Consequently, I use this opportunity to reassure Nigerian workers that this government would never take them for granted nor fail to appreciate their support and understanding. We shall continue to pursue policies aimed at massive employment generation in all sectors of the economy as well as look into immediate challenges that have emerged out of the policies of government.
“We cannot do this in an atmosphere devoid of industrial peace.
“At this point, I need to put on record that as at this moment, I am yet to receive official communication of the NLC Communiqué following its National Executive Council Meeting, as required by the law. Like many Nigerians, I and the Hon. Minister of State got the information from media sources.
“I believe my dear comrades will do the needful by following laid down processes for handling such matters since the cabinet is now in place unlike previously when there was no cabinet on ground,” the Minister noted.
Commenting on the brewing conflict between the Nigeria Police and the leadership of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) he said the matter would be looked into without delay.
According to Lalong, the subsisting laws of the Federation and International Conventions that Nigeria is party to, I do not believe that this conflict is insurmountable.
His words, “Without prejudice to the fact that the Nigeria Police as a frontline internal security agency has its role to play in civil and criminal matters, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has its role to play in resolving industrial relations matters.
“Therefore, we shall engage both parties in dialogue to find the way forward on this problem. I believe that the NURTW which plays a very critical role in the economy will always work with not only the police but all other security agencies. This misunderstanding must therefore be dealt with immediately”.
On industrial crisis between the organised labour with Imo and Abia State Governments, the Minister said he had been informed that the Nigeria Labour Congress and these State Governments had entered into collective agreements induced by industrial actions carried out by the leadership of the NLC in the States earlier in the year.
” I would also appeal for calm on this matter, to allow us to follow the laid down procedures of dispute resolution rather than confrontation, which has not yielded the desired results yet. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results,” he said.