Merely one week after leading a two-day nationwide warning strike, the organized labour is upping the ante.
They’ve issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government, and with approximately one week left until it expires, they’re threatening to commence an indefinite strike if their demands remain unmet.
The workers’ union has articulated the necessity of the proposed strike in light of the Federal Government’s perceived shortcomings in addressing the hardships faced by Nigerians due to the removal of fuel subsidies.
According to the union, their call for strike action stems from the government’s failure to offer palliative measures that could alleviate the burdens imposed by the subsidy removal.
In their view, these palliatives are crucial to cushioning the impact of the policy change on the ordinary citizens of Nigeria.
In an announcement, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has conveyed its plans for an impending industrial action, which could kick off as early as next week.
This prospective strike is anticipated to result in a protracted cessation of both commercial and economic activities across the entirety of the country.
The NLC has underscored the widespread impact such a move could have, affecting multiple sectors and bringing about a sustained disruption of daily operations.
Briefing Punch reporters on Tuesday, The National Assistant General Secretary of the NLC, Mr Christopher Onyeka, openly criticized the Federal Government’s actions.
He argued that it was inappropriate for the government to offer only a bag of rice to a dozen citizens while allegedly extending a substantial N100 million palliative to each member of the National Assembly.
On September 1, the union issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government due to the delay in distributing palliatives.
They warned that should their demands remain unmet, they might be forced to declare an indefinite labour action.
- “If the government fails to provide the appropriate responses to our demands, we encourage you to maintain your steadfast resolve. The same passion and determination that fueled this warning strike will be crucial if we find ourselves compelled to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike,’’ the labour body said in a letter to the federal government.
Among their various demands, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress advocated for wage adjustments, the rollout of palliative measures, tax relief, and supplementary allowances for public sector employees.
They also pressed for a comprehensive evaluation of the minimum wage, among other concerns.
Federal Government’s Reaction
Although the Federal Government had committed to restructuring its approach to engaging with organized labour regarding palliatives, the specified eight-week period set for the culmination of this process elapsed in August, devoid of any concrete developments.
These committees were allocated an eight-week window to finalize their responsibilities and accelerate the deployment of the framework intended to alleviate the consequences of petrol subsidy removal on the Nigerian populace.
Unfortunately, several weeks after the stipulated deadline, the sub-committees have neither convened nor fulfilled their designated tasks.
Since June 19, President Bola Tinubu has initiated the formation of the Presidential Steering Committee and multiple sub-committees to engage in discussions regarding the preferred framework for palliatives.
The sub-committees were established to execute the Federal Government’s palliative package across various domains, including Cash Transfers, Social Investment Programmes, Cost of Governance, Energy, Mass Transit, and Housing.
This development transpired as a consequence of a behind-the-scenes meeting between the President and the leaders of the NLC and the TUC, which coincided with a nationwide protest orchestrated by organized labour.
Looming Indefinite Nationwide Protest
Providing an update on the impending walkout in response to the government’s response, Onyeka reiterated that the Federal Government had disengaged from the negotiation table.
He emphasized that the government had also fallen short of fulfilling the workers’ requests.
The union leader indicated that there will be no prior notification to the government before they take any action, they deem appropriate.
- “We sent the letter to the Federal Government on September 1, 2023, so by September 22, 2023, the 21-day ultimatum will end.
- “We have made it clear that the Federal Government has abandoned and absconded from the table for negotiation; that government is no longer negotiating with Nigerians and there is no good faith negotiation that is going on.’’
President Bola Tinubu promised Nigerians on his own on television with the President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, that he was going to restructure the committees, but he did not do that, and since then the committees have not met and there has been no negotiation that is on-going. As it is, NLC is not negotiating with the government,” Onyeka said.
Speaking further, the Assistant General Secretary remarked that the limited palliatives being offered were seen as an affront to Nigerians.
- “Can you see the insult that a ward would share a bag of rice and the government calls that a palliative? It is an insult to Nigerians, whereas the government gave legislators N70bn and each of the legislators gets over N100m in a country where Nigerians are suffering.
- “The FG is buying cars and houses of over N100m for each person and Nigerians are keeping quiet as if what is going on is a normal thing. NLC calls Nigerians to join hands together because they cannot do it alone.
- ‘’When NLC calls for action, people should come out, they should because it is a collective effort to make the government yield to the desires and the interest of Nigerians,” the man lamented.