The strike action called by Organised Labour in Nigeria for Tuesday, October 3, was strategically timed to come soon after the anticipated October 1, Independence Day address by President Bola Tinubu.
This is to leave sufficient time for labour to call off the strike, should President Tinubu adequately address their demands in the announcement he would typically make as president of Nigeria on Independence Day.
Labour indicates it is however prepared for action, whichever way the pendulum swings.
In announcing the decision to call a strike for October 3, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) president, Joe Ajaero, said there would be consequences, “If the President ignites any responses to our demands in his Independence Day address that will be imposing wages on us and not a conscious negotiation between Labour and the Federal Government.”
Ajaero emphasised: “If he declares an amount to give, that will be mere tokenism and not a product of bargaining and negotiation.”
Ajaero further observed that nothing had been achieved after the numerous meetings with government, adding, “that is the height of insensitivity, and it is worse because they are using silence and laziness as a strategy.”
He added that a committee was set up at the first meeting between the NLC and the Federal Government, months ago and those committees have not deliberated on the issues presented by the NLC.
Also, he noted: “Only on the eve of any strike notice that there is a meeting” and all the agreements in the meetings have not been converted to levels of implementation.”
He said, “Each time we meet on the eve of taking action, and agree to give the government more time, Nigerians will say we have been settled with money by the government.
“Nobody will think we are insensitive or have not tried, ordinarily the subsidy should not have been removed without making provisions for the consequences that will arise from it.”
Organised Labour in Nigeria had called a strike action to kick-ff on Tuesday October 3.
Leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) made the announcement Tuesday September 26, at a joint press conference in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
Consequently, the NLC and TUC have directed state chapters across the country to prepare for protests on the said date.
This was despite appeals and representations reportedly carrying on between government and organised labour over the past few days and the failure of labour to call a scheduled strike on September 22 which gave the impression that a truce had been reached between both parties.
As at Tuesday evening, Simon Lalong, Minister of Labour and Employment, is said to have resumed fresh and frantic representations to Organised Labour to stand down the impending strike.
Lalong says the Federal Government has met some of labours demands and is progressing towards meeting others.
Labour had said it wants clear evidence of measures to serve reliefs to Nigerians in the face of economic hardships brought on by the removal of petrol subsidy and the free float of the naira, failing which it would call the strike.
Organised Labour’s demands include wage increases, tax exemptions and allowances to public sector workers, reduction of cost of governance, provision of Compressed Natural Gas, (CNG) buses, release of modalities for N70 billion for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), release of officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, (NURTW) by the police and vacation of occupation of Police-backed interlopers, among others.
Lalong said the NURT officials have since been released.
Some of the arguments that government is said to be presenting to Organised Labour, include the assurance given days ago by the Dangote Petrochemical Refinery that it will commence operations in October, bringing reliefs in terms of availability and reduced cost of fuel to market.
The counter argument however is that government may not be able to supply the refinery with adequate quantities of crude because of pre-existing obligations arising from foreign debt commitments.
Other arguments being put forward, sources say, include that government is already realising significant savings from the removal of of petrol subsidy and had chalked up N1 trn in savings as of July 31, just two months into the policy.
To this, Labour says it wants to see a translation of these savings into economic relief to Nigerians.
Government further says it is fast working to deliver 3,000 buses of 25-seat capacity which run on more cost efficient Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel from abroad to reduce transport cost to Nigerians and that it is in negotiations with an indigenous motor manufacturer to deliver and speed up further deliveries.
Labour’s position on this is said to be that the process is taking too long.
Government is also attesting that it is well disposed to putting a wage review into effect, while labour is said to be pressing for documentation, percentages and timelines.