Nigerian government moves to avert impending nationwide strike

By Helen shok Jok, Abuja

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The Nigerian government says it will do everything possible to nip in the bud the planned nationwide indefinite strike action threatened by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

Except the government presents an acceptable offer to the workers’ organization, the Congress may make do its threat and call out workers to down tools beginning on the 22nd of September 2023.

At a meeting with the leadership of the NLC, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Simon Lalong called on the Congress to allow their grievances be settled through dialogue.

Read Also: Strike: President Tinubu Meets Labour Leaders

He said that government acknowledges “the valid grievances” that have fueled the recent labour crisis, and is committed to addressing them in a just and equitable manner.

“In recent months, our country has witnessed teething challenges, marked by industrial actions and unrest that have adversely affected the economy.

“I appear before you today not just as a representative of the government, but as an advocate for constructive dialogue, aspiring to understand your concerns and working hand in hand to find lasting solutions that benefit all Nigerians.

 “I fully acknowledge and appreciate the invaluable role the NLC plays in championing for the rights and welfare of our workers. Your dedication and tireless advocacy have been critical in shaping a fair and inclusive work environment, and ensuring the wellbeing of our workforce”, Lalong said.

According to the Minister, Nigerians must also recognize the economic realities that confront the nation saying, “as we address the concerns of our workforce, we must be mindful of striking a balance that promotes economic growth and secures sustainable progress for our nation.

 “Today, I call upon each one of you to join hands in an open-minded and constructive dialogue, enabling us to bridge any gaps that may exist between the interests of workers and the ultimate goal of driving economic advancement”.

Mr. Lalong also appealed to the NLC to embrace the spirit of unity and commit to only those actions that would lead to the betterment of the country.

“Let us seize this opportunity to listen and understand one another. Together, let us explore innovative approaches, reimagining strategies that enhance working conditions and worker benefits while nurturing a robust economy”, the Minister said.

For the Nigeria Labour Congress, only the presidency can take decisions on the demands presented to the government saying that Labour is ready to meet the government any time of the day to find solutions to its demands and avert the planned strike.

NLC President, Joe Ajaero said that labour had a friendly deliberation with the Ministers and expressed the hope that even at the eleventh minute before the planned strike takes effect, amicable resolutions would be reached between labour and the federal government.

“We hope that even if it is remaining one day, we will get to the root of all these problems. Whenever we are invited, we will be there. Both parties will work towards the realisation of these objectives before the last minute of the ultimatum. 

“There is a larger committee that has set up technical committees. The ministry has performed its role to mediate and conciliate in the problem between us and the federal government. There is an inter-ministerial committee at the presidency level which is supposed to address these issues. 

“The Ministry of labour can’t address wage award, the issue of CNG, refineries and others. The Ministry has mediated to ensure that there is no problem or get both parties to resolve these issues.

“We are ready to engage the government whether in the night or day, we are ready to engage but not at gunpoint”, Ajaero said.

Some of the demands of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress includes: wage award, tax exemptions and allowances to public sector workers, provision of Compressed Natural Gas buses, release of modalities for the 70 billion naira for Small and Medium Enterprises, release of officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers by the police and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria crisis in Lagos, among others.

Recall that the NLC had embarked on a two-day nation-wide warning strike on the 5th and 6th of September this year and issued the federal government a 21-day ultimatum, which is due to expire midnight of 21st September, to meet its demands or face a nationwide indefinite strike.

NLC President Joe Ajaero has stressed that the threatened strike is not a sign of been unpatriotic to the Nigerian nation but its rather geared towards getting government’s attention to respond positively to the sufferings of the people since the removal of subsidy on fuel on the 29th of May 2023 adding that every effort made by labour to get respite for workers and Nigerians have failed.

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