NLC, TUC strike to go on unless… – Ambali, NLC Vice President


…As FG, NLC meeting deadlocked


By Abiodun OBA


The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Vice President, Hakeem Ambali, on Tuesday, insisted that the strike would go on unless the Federal Government addressed “the untold hardship meted on Nigerians by the infamous pronunciation that ‘subsidy is gone’ on 29 May.’’

Ambali lamented that the Federal Government had yet to fulfil its part of the agreement with the labour movement.

A meeting between the Federal Government and organised Labour to stave off the planned strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress deadlocked on Monday night.

The Minister of State Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who hosted the parley in Abuja, could not convince the unions to suspend the strike slated for February 23.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, on Tuesday, sought the understanding of the unions, saying, “We are optimistic Labour will see reason and strike will be averted in the interest of the nation.’’

However, Ambali declared in an interview, “The two-week ultimatum stands except the government does the needful and addresses the untold hardship meted on Nigerians by the infamous pronunciation that ‘subsidy is gone’ on 29 May.

“We can see pockets of protests across the country. These are very dangerous. So, Labour must rise and offer leadership; Our ultimatum is patriotic’’.

Shedding light on what transpired at the meeting with the minister, Ambali, who is also the National President of the National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, disclosed that the session was called to review the level of implementation of the October agreement.

He stated, “The meeting realised that major parts of the agreement have not been implemented and Labour minister expressed her disappointment that the government had not kept faith with the spirit of the agreements.

“The meeting resolved subsequently that the agreements have not been well implemented and that they (government) still have windows of opportunities to meet to address all these to avert the impending strikes.”

Speaking further, the vice-president noted that the agreement with the Federal Government was time-bound.

He added, “We signed an agreement in October last year that the buses would be ready to ply Nigeria’s road in December last year. We are already in February. I do not think we have seen any bus on the road.

“On the wage award, which is N35,000, we also realised that the government has not kept faith with that. They were only able to pay one until we issued an ultimatum for 14 days. We realised that even state governments did not negotiate with their labour unions.

“What they only did was that they started paying N10,000 before the agreement was signed. Some of the governors were part of the meeting back then in October. They would have called the labour unions and negotiated new wages which were not done.”

On the minimum wage negotiation, Ambali noted the NLC declined to meet with the committee as the government was supposed to address the issue.

“For emphasis is the issue of the minimum wage committee. By law, in September 2023, the minimum wage committee should have come into operation, six months after the expiration of the old Minimum Wage Act which was not done.

“The committee was inaugurated about two weeks ago and with the negotiation statute barred because it is expected to have matured by March 31, 2024, when the existing law becomes obsolete.

“Even now, they said the committee was to brief us yesterday (Monday), we said we are not looking for a technical session. That it is a joint committee between Labour and government who is supposed to have briefed us and the committee never met,’’ he explained.

Also speaking, a top NLC official said the unions scheduled a second meeting with the labour minister.

“The Ministry of Labour of Labour and Employment is just an intervention platform. What the ministry is doing is to come in and say they would arrange the meeting, but it is not in any position to make an offer,’’ the labor leader clarified.

Recall, the NLC and TUC had on February 8 issued a 14-day nationwide strike notice to the Federal Government over the failure of the Bola Tinubu-led government to implement the agreements reached on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol.

In a statement signed by the leaders of the two labour unions, Joe Ajaero and Festus Usifo, the organised Labour expressed sadness that despite the passage of time, “The majority of these crucial agreements remain unmet or negligibly addressed, indicating a blatant disregard for the principles of good faith, welfare and rights of Nigerian workers and Nigerians.”

The unions said despite their efforts to ensure industrial peace, the government seemed unperturbed by the mass suffering and hardship across the country.

After the removal of the fuel subsidy by the President on May 29, 2023, the labour unions reached a 16-point agreement with the Federal Government on measures to cushion the pains of the subsidy removal on workers.

Among other things, the government agreed to pay N35,000 to all federal workers beginning from last September pending when a new national minimum wage would be signed into law.

The resolution provided that the wage award would be paid to the federal workers for six months while states were encouraged to extend the same benefit to their workers.

The Federal Government also pledged to make cash transfers to vulnerable Nigerians and provide 100 CNG (compressed natural gas) buses nationwide to ease the high transportation costs.

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