The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Sunday insisted on embarking on an indefinite strike across the country.
The NLC President, Joe Ajaero stated this while speaking on Arise News, adding that the union may declare strike by midnight on Tuesday.
According to Ajaero, the federal government had more than enough time to resolve the dispute and address the concerns of the labour movement but chose not to do so.
NLC had condemned the Federal Government for not providing means to relieve the effect of fuel subsidy removal.
Ajaero during the interview said every Nigerian would have expected by now a concrete result on the federal government-labour negotiations on palliatives.
When asked if he was confident that the planned indefinite strike would be successful, Ajaero said the earlier warning strike achieved about 80 per cent success, despite efforts to sabotage it.
He said, “For the total, indefinite strike, Nigerians should expect total impact.
“First, the basis for asking for palliatives and even wage awards should have been there if the government were able to do the first things first.
“But for it to take steps to remove subsidy, every normal human being should have known that there will be effects and we should have equally discussed the effects.
“But within some minutes, the subsidy was removed and we say, no, return it to status quo so that we can discuss. They said, no, ask for palliatives, ask for the wage increase. And here, the same things they had asked us to ask were things we asked for but they can’t provide them and they have vacated the negotiating table.
“We don’t know what to do again. We gave a notice for protest, we did protest and they promised to get back to us. After that time, nothing happened. We gave notice for a warning strike, and the warning strike came and nothing happened.
“We gave another 21 days’ notice, it expired on Friday. I don’t know how much time the minister of labour is asking for. We honoured a meeting summoned by the Minister of Labour and Employment last week.”
Ajaero accused the federal government of trying to undermine the strike, demonise the NLC leadership, and create division among the trade unions.
He added that if such time and effort were used to seek a solution, it would have been found and the problem would have been solved.
NLC said the mission of the labour movement was to help the poor.
The NLC president also reacted to the concerns of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and Manufacturers Association (MAN) over the negative effect of the strike on businesses and the national economy
He said, “NECA is our social partner but, unfortunately, the current leadership talks to us through a third party. NECA has not written to us, they have asked us to explain issues, so NECA can’t be playing to the gallery.
“NECA can’t at this point continue to play with all the workers in the private sector.”
Ajaero said NECA should not be saying that the strike would affect the economy when the economy had already been destroyed.
He stated, “Workers are not going to work, even all the state governments are now reducing the number of days workers are coming to work. So if a state government can say workers should not come to work for two days and labour goes on strike for two days, what is the difference? Is it not the same man-hours that are being lost?”
Ajaero accused NECA of ignoring the channels of discussion with labour whenever a dispute arose.
He said, “Unless what is happening is not affecting them, unless NECA wants to continue to play the slave way because the implication is that if we get a wage now, NECA is bound to implement it. Probably, they are not ready to do that, but I don’t think that the statement came from NECA.”
Concerning the concern expressed by MAN, Ajaero, said, “I don’t know if anything is still being manufactured with the situation of things in the country. With the energy cost going up, I don’t know what is being manufactured and what is being sold.
“This is the worry we must all embark on, and address the issue, including the energy cost, to enable them to manufacture very well, because if you manufacture at a higher cost without recourse to the impact on consumers, who are mainly workers that will no longer buy these products due lack of purchasing power.
“I don’t think that MAN has equally made an effort to find out how to solve this problem, they have not complained about the high energy cost, and they don’t even know how workers struggle to come to work, which is very important.
“For instance, if I have been going to work with N20 and now I go to work with N100, but you, as an employer, have not increased my transport allowance and then you say I must work, that amounts to slavery.”
Speaking on the alleged plot by the government to divide organised labour, Ajaero said the government could not create division among the trade unions.
He said if the move to divide the ranks of organised labour was a strategy by the government such a plan was dead on arrival.
Ajaero said, “What unites us is the people, our wage and poverty in the land.”
He said TUC might have adopted a strategy of waiting for some more time, but NLC, which is the union of the least-paid workers experiencing the hardship the most, would want that problem to be solved now.
He said on the issue of wages and other items on the table, TUC and NLC were on the same page.
Ajaero noted, “We agreed on it, no matter the modes of arriving at the destination, whether by vehicle or through an aircraft.”
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