Leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, yesterday gave insight into why they resolved to shelve the planned nationwide strike aimed at forcing the Federal Government to reverse the 200 per cent hike in the pump price of petrol.
Rising from an emergency National Executive Council, NEC, meeting yesterday, the president of NLC, Mr Joe Ajaero, and General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, cited the mood of the nation, in view of the outcome of the presidential elections still being challenged at the tribunal, the need to pursue national stability and the restraining order obtained by the Federal Government from the National Industrial Court, NIC, as reasons for the decision to shelve the planned industrial action.
The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, however, accused the NIC of continuous weaponisation of the instrument of ex-parte injunctions in favour of the government against the interests of Nigerian workers in defiance of the position of the Supreme Court on the use of this instrument.
The communiqué signed by both Ajaero and Ugboaja recalled that the previous NEC-in-Session had ordered a nationwide withdrawal of services and mass protest over the petroleum price hike by the Federal Government, whereas the government was in breach of the 2023 Appropriation Act, insisting that the NLC will not encourage lawlessness.
The communiqué read: “Taking into account that the Federal Government has procured a court injunction restraining congress from proceeding with the proposed nationwide strike as the NEC-in-session had ordered to begin, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, and recognizing the willingness of government for continuous engagement through dialogue and to offer reasonable palliatives in due course to cushion the effect of its policies, some levels of understanding were reached
“Considering the mood of the socio-polity of the last elections and the need to pursue national stability and, the NEC-in-session also resolved to commend and applaud the diligence of the congress’ leadership in carrying out the assignment given to it by NEC.
‘’It demonstrated to the Federal Government the need to comply with the laws of the land, especially as it concerns obedience to the ruling of courts and their brazen disregard for the 2023 Appropriation Act.
“NEC-in session, therefore, supports and accepts the decision of the leadership of Congress to suspend the proposed strike in compliance with the flawed rulings of the NIC and also allow negotiations to flow freely and enable final agreement during or after June 19, 2023, negotiation round with the Federal Government.
Ex-parte injunctions weaponised against workers
“The NEC-in- Session, however, registers in strongest terms its disgust and disapproval of the ruling of the National Industrial Court, NIC, for its continuous weaponisation of the instrument of ex-parte injunctions in favour of government against the interests of Nigerian workers, in defiance of the position of the Supreme Court on the use of this instrument.
“All affiliates and state councils of Congress are, hereby, directed to suspend further action and mobilization until the outcome of the final negotiations.
‘’The NEC-in-Session commends all affiliates and state councils on their robust mobilization towards a successful nationwide strike and to also remain vigilant in case there is need to continue.”
Similarly, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, said it agreed to shelve the strike plan because the government was ready to accept all its demands.
Among the demands put forward by the union was the payment of a new minimum wage of N200,000.
Govt accepted all our demands — TUC
TUC Secretary General, Nuhu Toro, said in an interview yesterday: “Sincerely, we went into the meetings or negotiations with the government and they accepted all our demands.
‘’In that case, there was no need to proceed with any industrial action. The essence of an ultimatum is to get the government’s attention to present our demands which we did. In any case, it is not over. We are meeting on June 19 to review the situation.”
Recall that NLC had on Friday in a communiqué at the end of an emergency National Executive Council, NEC, meeting, “considered the huge suffering pervading the nation, the outrage expressed by the majority and the increased attendant fears of the consequences of the PMS price hike unanimously condemned the actions of the federal government and concluded that it was unlawful for the federal government to have announced the withdrawal of the subsidy on PMS.
It stated further: “The 2023 Appropriation Act made provisions for the funding of the subsidy regime on PMS till the end of June 2023. It is unfair for the government to knowingly take action that will inflict pain on the populace and workers without putting adequate safeguards in place.
“Discussions were already on an understanding reached with the government on the conditions precedent before the withdrawal of subsidy on PMS. The local refineries, especially the public-owned four have remained comatose as a result of the government’s inability to get them operationally turned around. “We cannot accept any petroleum product price increase until products are refined locally. The Federal Government’s decision was unilateral and, therefore, runs counter to the spirit of national consensus and social dialogue.’’
A meeting earlier on Thursday, June 2, between the government and leaders of NLC and their TUC counterparts to find headway to the looming nationwide industrial unrest ended in deadlock.
The meeting was rescheduled for Sunday. However, while the NLC shunned the meeting, insisting on the reversal of the price hike as a condition for further meetings, its TUC counterpart attended the meeting and presented some demands, including a N200,000 minimum wage proposal to the Federal Government. But on Monday, leaders of NLC made a U-turn and decided to resume meetings with the government.
In the midst of the meeting, a report emerged that the government had procured a court order restraining both NLC and TUC from proceeding with the planned strike that ought to have commenced today. Leaders of TUC later joined the meeting where the agreement was later reached to suspend the planned strike. Organized labour and the Federal Government also agreed, among others, that the present price of PMS remains till June 19 when all the parties would continue the discussion on the contentious issues.
Reps ask FG to implement resolutions
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, yesterday, commended the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, for suspending its proposed strike that would have commenced today over the removal of fuel subsidy. The House said accepting to negotiate with the Federal Government was also commendable.
The commendation followed a motion moved by Idem Unyime at plenary.
Adopting the motion, the House, which acknowledged the huge expenditure hitherto made on subsidies, however, urged the federal government to ensure that the money saved from subsidy removal was channelled to other developmental projects.
It also called for the implementation of resolutions reached with the organized labour unions, if only to appreciate the suspension of the planned strike.