Senior civil servants will not join the strike call by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), it was learnt Sunday.
The senior workers umbrella organisation – the Trade Union Congress (TUC) – decided at its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting Sunday in Abuja that it would continue with dialogue with the government to ease the pain of petrol subsidy removal, a senior figure told our correspondent.
The NLC on Friday announced that workers will go on a two-day warning strike, tomorrow and Wednesday.
Its President Joe Ajaero said the decision was taken at its NEC meeting with possibility of a “total shutdown” after 14 days.
The TUC source, who is a NEC member said the union reasoned that the planned strike is “premature”.
“The TUC feels there is no need to embark on a strike because we are still discussing with the Federal Government on the issue of palliatives for workers,” he said.
In states such as Ogun and Niger, labour leaders ruled out the possibility of joining the strike while in Oyo and Sokoto, they insisted on a work boycott as directed by the NLC.
Some governors also moved to avert the strike by either arranging meetings with Labour leaders or restating their plans to ameliorate the pains caused by subsidy removal.
Akwa Ibom and Kano are such states where the governments will today meet with labour leaders.
The steps to prevent the warning strike by the Federal Government will be outlined today by Labour Minister Simon Lalong, it was learnt.
The NLC explained that the decision followed the “failure of the Federal Government to dialogue and engage stakeholders within the organised labour on efforts to cushion the effects of the removal of petrol subsidy on the poor masses.”
But speaking after the TUC meeting, the NWC member said joining the NLC in the strike would further put the interest of the masses at risk.
He accused the Ajaero-led NLC of slowing the pace of discussion between the Organised Labour and a Federal Government team led by Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The source said: “The TUC is not joining the NLC on that planned warning strike. The reason is because we are reaching out to the Federal Government. The government has already released palliatives to the states and we are also expecting the government to release the one for federal workers.”
“When we met with the Senate, the statement by the NLC that they don’t have confidence in the Chief of Staff to the President-led committee led to the suspension of that committee because the man (Femi Gbajabiamila) felt if the NLC doesn’t have confidence in him why should he be leading the committee when the outcome will not be palatable? That stalled the work of the committee .
“Now, there is a Minister of Labour and Employment (Simon Lalong), who is supposed to be the leader of the government team. There is an ongoing effort to interact with us to get results.
”We feel that it is not the right time to go on strike. When you go on strike we will be putting the masses at the receiving end because the government has a way of navigating out of such matters.
”Again, the issue of strike should not be one-sided. It should be a joint effort by the two labour centres to agree before issuing a strike notice. One centre cannot claim superiority over the other centre. It is not done anywhere.
“You cannot announce a strike and then decide to bring us in. It is supposed to be a decision taken by the two centres. The NLC is free to go on strike on its own. We are different unions.”
The NLC and the TUC jointly staged protests in Abuja and state capitals over the subsidy removal on August 3.
The NLC president could not be reached last night to confirm if it was on the same page with the TUC over the proposed warning protest. He neither picked telephone calls nor responded to a text message sent to him.
After that protest a meeting of the National Economic Council decided on the devolution of palliatives sharing to the states.
It announced that each state will get N5 billion in addition to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize and fertilisers.
Finance Minister Wale Edun said at the weekend that N2 billion each had been released by the Federal Government to states. He said the money was being released in phases to curb likely inflation.
Akwa Ibom and Kano for talks with labour
The Akwa Ibom and Kano state governments are to meet today with labour unions on how to stop the planned strike.
Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Labour and Productivity Aniefiok Nkom, said even though labour had yet to notify the government about the strike, the governor had decided to take proactive steps to ensure that workers did not down tools.
He added that the meeting would focus on how to address the hardship faced by workers and the less privileged in the state.
In Kano, the Commissioner for Information and Internal Affairs, Baba Dantiye, said: ”The state government is holding talks with Labour union officials. We are discussing with them on how to improve their welfare so that both of us (government and organised Labour) get compromise in the interest of the state.”
No going back on planned strike, say Oyo Sokoto workers
Labour leaders in Oyo and Sokoto states insisted that the strike would go on as planned.
Oyo State TUC Chairman Bosun Olabiyi, said workers were unanimous in their readiness to comply with the directive on the two-day warning strike by the national leaderships of the unions.
Special Adviser on Labour Matters to Governor Seyi Makinde Adebayo Titilola-Sodo said he would not make public the efforts of the government to persuade the state to rethink.
Although, the Sokoto State branch of the NLC said there is no going back on the strike, the state government said it was hopeful that the workers would have a rethink. .
NLC Chairman Abdullahi Jungle, said: “All union organs in Sokoto State are fully ready. We have drafted our letters for onward dispatch tomorrow(today) to all relevant agencies including the state government.
“It (strike) is for the survival of Nigerians. The issue of palliative is not enough. We want a concrete measure that would last the test of expectations of Nigerians.
“Palliatives is a temporary measure that cannot last an average Nigerian more than the duration it is intended. Let me tell you, the monies given to the states are loans. Tell me with the current situation, how will they settle it.”
But the government said it was optimistic that Labour would change its mind based on its efforts to minimise the hardship faced by people, especially workers.
Secretary to the State Government, Muhammad Sifawa, told The Nation that the Government has already released N7.3billion for palliatives.
Sifawa, who also noted that ‘ it takes two to tango,’ said machinery to fast-track an interface with the labour was already in place.
“It is a common knowledge that sometimes whatever efforts you put to amicably resolve labour matters, cannot change the direction of an already intended course of action,” he noted.
Commissioner for Religious Affairs Jabir Mai Hula had at the weekend, said the palliatives included 57,000 bags of 50kg of rice and 26,000 100kgs of millet that would be distributed by the government.
The state also intends to purchase 50 units of 18-seater Toyota buses and 20 units of Toyota Camry for inter-state and local transportation. The Toyota Camry will strictly serve female residents of the state.
NewMailNG learnt on Sunday that some affiliates of the NLC have resolved not to be a part of the strike.
A source in one of the unions, who pleaded anonymity, argued that they were not consulted by the NLC before declaring the strike. He added that the “matters of interest” cited by the NLC in its statement on the strike were peculiar to the congress.
It was gathered that the strike might not hold in Niger State because of the three-day public holiday announced at the weekend by Governor Mohammed Bago.
The holiday begins on Wednesday and ends on Thursday.
Announcing the work-free days, the governor said his administration would procure 200 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses in December to ease transportation difficulties in the state.
The buses would be free for students and at discounted fares for civil servants.
The government also explained that it had budgeted N110 million for logistics and for Organised Labour.
Osun State Government also believes that its harmonious relationship with Labour would make the planned strike unnecessary.
Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi reassured that the government of Ademola Adeleke would continue to treat issues affecting workers with utmost seriousness.
Alimi said: ”Governor Adeleke will not use workers’ welfare to play politics which is the reason why he has been paying backlog of salary owed by the previous government. we don’t have any issue with our labour unions in Osun, we are meeting them every time to delineate an upward review of salary.”
Like Osun State, the Cross River State Government is counting on its close relationship with labour leaders as a reason the strike would not take place in the state.
Special Adviser to the Governor on General Duties Ekpenyong Akiba said: The state government has submitted its ideas on what to do to ameliorate the subsidy removal pains to a committee driven by the labour leaders to determine what the state can do effectively.
“That committee turned in it’s input two days ago and the state governor will personally make public what his administration is putting in place for the people.”