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Labour shuns parley with FG as Oct 3 nationwide strike looms

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Friday, September 29th, 2023
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Leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and their Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterparts, on Friday, shunned a meeting called by the Federal Government in a desperate effort to avert the planned nationwide strike from October 3.

According to the two labour centres, government’s invitation came late as they had scheduled engagements outside Abuja, the federal capital.

The government had, on Friday, summoned an emergency meeting meeting with the leaders of NLC and TUC in an effort to sway Organized Labour and its allies to shelve the industrial action.

Vanguard gathered the meeting, which was scheduled for Friday, 12 noon at Aso Villa, Conference Room of the Office of the Chief of Staff to Mr. President, was later shifted to evening, to allow NLC and TUC to reach their leaders outside Abuja.

According to Vanguard sources, the NLC and its TUC counterpart received the government’s invitation this morning through the ministry of labour and employment.

FG’s invitation letter

The invitation letter dated September 29 and cited by Vanguard, was signed on behalf of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, by the Director, Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations, Emmanuel Igbinosun.

The letter titled “Impending labour union strike invitation to a meeting”, read in part: “I bring you greetings from the Honourable Ministers of Labour and Employment.

“I am directed to invite the leadership of the Trade Union Congress Nigeria (TUC) for a meeting with the Chief of Staff to Mr. President on the above subject, scheduled as follows:

“Date: Friday, September 294, 2023; Time: 12 noon. Venue: Aso Villa, Conference Room of the Office of the Chief of Staff to Mr. President.

“Please be assured of the kind regards of the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment.”

NLC, TUC demand new date

However, in a response to the Minister, the two labour centres in a letter dated September 29, requested for a new date next week.

The letter signed by Emmanuel Ugboaja, NLC’s General Secretary and Nuhu Toro, TUC’s Secretary General, titled “R-impending labour union strike: Invitation to meeting”, read: “We extend our warm regards to you and the entire team at your Ministry.

“We wish to express our sincere regrets for our inability to attend the proposed meeting between us and the Federal Government, scheduled for today the 29th Day of September due to already scheduled engagements our officials have outside Abuja.

“Regrettably, the short notice provided for this meeting has posed significant logistical challenges for the majority of our leadership, rendering their participation unfeasible at this time.

“In light of this, and in the interest of ensuring that any discussions held are representative of the NLC’s and TUC’s collective stance, we find it imperative to request the rescheduling of the meeting.

“We trust that this request for a rescheduled meeting will be taken into consideration, and we look forward to your understanding in this matter.”

Strike declaration

 Recall that the NLC and TUC, had on September 26, declared indefinite strike starting from October 3.

The planned nationwide strike, among others, is to force the government to address its alleged insensitivity to the plights of Nigerians as a result of the removal of petrol subsidy and continuous demonstration of unwillingness and complete lack of initiative.

The two labour centers had equally advised Nigerians to stockpile foodstuffs because the strike would shutdown economic activities in the country.

The President of NLC, Joe Ajaero and the TUC, Festus Osifo disclosed this after their separate Emergency National Executive Council, NEC , meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.

According to the communique read by the two Presidents, the indefinite strike was as a result of the alleged insensitivity of government to the plights of Nigerians as a result of the removal of petrol subsidy and continuous demonstration of unwillingness and complete lack of initiative.

FG reminds labour of subsisting court order

The Federal Government had earlier asked the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, to shelve their planned nationwide indefinite strike from October 3.

Government said going ahead with the proposed industrial action will amount to a gross violation of a subsisting court injunction.

However, the government said issues bordering on fuel subsidy removal, which informed the decision of the NLC and the TUC to declare the strike, are pending before the National Industrial Court, NIC.
FG writes unions through their lawyer.

Speaking through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the government wrote to the head of the legal team of the two unions, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, urging him to persuade his clients to abort the planned strike.

The letter, dated September 26, read: “The attention of the Ministry has been drawn to media reports on the proposed nationwide strike action by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, scheduled to commence on October 3, 2023.

“You are kindly invited to recall the antecedence of previous steps/actions on this matter, particularly the exchange of correspondence between this office and your firm, before and after the nationwide ‘action/protest’ declared by the NLC on August 2, 2023.

“Whilst your clients had maintained that the nationwide protest by NLC is in furtherance of its constitutional right to embark on protests, the ministry has repeatedly advised on the need to advise your clients to refrain from resorting to self-help and taking actions capable of undermining subsisting orders of a court of competent jurisdiction.

“It is also to be recalled that based on the conduct of the said nationwide action/protest, this office instituted contempt proceedings against the labour leaders.

“However, upon the intervention of the President and National Assembly, coupled with the decision of the labour unions to discontinue their action/protest, the contempt proceedings were not prosecuted further.

“This was advisedly done to enable the government and labour unions engage in further negotiations without any form of encumbrances.
“However, in its communiqué issued at the end of its National Executive Council, NEC, meeting on August 31, 2023, NLC resolved to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from 31st August 2023.
“Also on September 26, 2023, the Presidents of NLC and TUC, jointly issued a communiqué stating that organised labour had resolved, ‘to embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, the 3rd day of October, 2023.’

“From a review of the contents of the above communiqué and available media reports, the proposed strike action is premised principally in furtherance of issues connected with the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers welfare.

“These are undoubtedly issues that have been submitted to the National Industrial Court for adjudication.

‘’Therefore, the proposed strike is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted on June 5, 2023, restraining both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on any industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending Motion on Notice.

“We wish to reiterate that a court order, regardless of the opinion of any party on it, remains binding and enforceable until set aside.

“It is the expectation of the public that the labour unions would lead in obedience and observance of court orders and not in its breach.

“It is therefore the earnest expectation of this Office that your distinguished law firm will advise the labour unions on the need to protect the integrity of courts and observe the sanctity of court orders.

“Consequently, you are kindly requested to impress it upon the organized labour unions to note the fact that their proposed strike action is in gross breach of the subsisting court order, as well as the appropriateness of addressing their grievances/demands within the ambit of the law.

“Hence, the need for them to be more accommodating and show greater appreciation of the effect of the order of the court, by shelving the strike action.

“The foregoing will afford parties more room for further mutual engagements, for a holistic and sustainable resolution of all outstanding issues on this matter in the overall national interest.”

Among those the letter was copied include the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chief Of Staff to the President, National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, State Security Services.

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