THE PRESIDENCY on Monday accused the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of unwarranted ego trip for embarking on the current nationwide strike, which kicked off Tuesday.
Stating that organised labour’s strike is not in the national interest, the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr Bayo Onanuga, said in a statement that the strike is an attempt to blackmail the federal government.
According to Mr Onanuga, NLC and TUC’s decision to call out workers on a national strike over a personal issue of a labour leader and despite court’s order stopping the strike amounts to an abuse of privilege.
Onanuga admonished the NLC and TUC to never use power to settle personal scores, but instead used it to promote collective progress and advance national interest.
The statement further reads: “We notice with dismay the decision by the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to call out workers to commence a strike action from midnight, despite a restraining order issued last week by Justice Benedict Backwash Kanyip of the National Industrial Court.
“We are still at a loss as to why the NLC and TUC decided to punish a whole country of over 200 million people over a personal matter involving the NLC President, Mr. Joe Ajaero, whose error of judgment led to assault on him in Owerri while he was planning to incite the workers in Imo State into a needless strike.
“While the federal government does not condone any form of violence and assault on any citizen of Nigeria regardless of his or her social and economic status, it is on record that the Inspector General of Police has ordered an investigation into what happened to Mr. Ajaero while the Commissioner of Police in Imo State under whose watch the incident happened has been transferred out of the state.
“Calling out workers on a national strike over a personal issue of a labour leader despite a clear court order against any industrial action amounts to an abuse of privilege. Power at any level should never be used to settle personal scores. Rather, it should be used to promote collective progress and advance national interest.
“Our national economy and social activities should not suffer because of the personal interest of any labour leader.
“This flagrant disobedience to court order and lack of respect for the judiciary should not be what the organized Labour would champion.
“The labour movement has always been a champion of the rule of law and respect for the judiciary. It is a sad irony that the current labour leaders have shown disdain and utter disregard for court orders.
“We reiterate that this strike action is illegal, immoral, unjustifiable and irresponsible. What the strike notice issued Monday night after official hours suggests is it’s designed for a sinister and hidden agenda to cause undue hardship and cause civil disturbance in our country. This is unacceptable.”
JAF Urges Labour To Resist Pressure To Suspend Strike
Meanwhile, the Joint Action Front (JAF) has urged the two labour centres to disregard the pressure being mounted on them and go ahead with the strike until petrol price and public university fees’ hikes are reversed.
In a statement signed by Dr Oladipo Fashina and Comrade Abiodun Aremu, JAF’s Chairperson and Secretary respectively, the organisation, while pledging its unwavering solidarity for the struggles of the labour movement against anti-poor and neo-liberal attacks of the Tinubu administration, also called on Nigerians to support the “NLC & TUC re-commencement of the indefinite strike on midnight [of] November 14th 2023!”
The statement, entitled, “JAF Salutes The NLC And TUC And Urges Them To Resist The Pressure To Suspend General Strike Until The Fuel Price And The Public University Fees’ Hikes Are Reversed!” reads:
“The Joint Action Front (JAF) salutes the doggedness of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). We pledge the unwavering solidarity of the Joint Action Front (JAF) for the struggles of the labour movement against the anti-poor and neo-liberal attacks of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration particularly the withdrawal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel prices, devaluation of the naira, hike in school fees and other attacks on living standards.
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“We assure the NLC and TUC of the readiness of all workers and oppressed Nigerians to join the general strike to begin to demand reversal of the fuel subsidy removal, hike in fuel prices and school fees of public educational institutions as well as all other policies of the administration that have made life miserable for the working class and poor.
“The current struggle is being framed by the corrupt capitalist ruling elite as simply about demands for palliatives. This is not true. This struggle is an ideological struggle against a neoliberal and capitalist policy of deregulation of the oil sector. We are well aware of number of concessions being granted at the eleventh hour by a federal government that conveniently ignored labor over the past 21 days. This includes a wage award of N35, 000 across board for federal workers as well as promised provision of CNG buses etc.
“So far, all of these concessions are promises, none have been implemented. Therefore, it would be a costly gamble for labour to suspend its strike on the basis of promises by a ruling elite that habitually fails to implement collective bargaining agreements with trade unions especially the ASUU-FGN 2009 agreement as well as the 2019 minimum wage agreement which is still not being paid in a number of states across the federation.
“As far as JAF is concerned, palliatives only address symptoms whereas the root of the crisis is where the solution lies. Even if implemented, no matter the amount of wage awards granted, so far the policy of fuel subsidy removal and fuel price hike subsist, Nigerian workers and the poor masses will continue to suffer. Therefore we urge NLC and TUC to accept the concessions already won while at the same time going forward to demand that the wage award applies to all categories of workers at both public and private sectors, a complete reversal of the fuel price hike and the policy of subsidy removal as well as reversal of the criminal hike in school fees at universities and other tertiary institutions as the only minimum criteria before a suspension of the general strike can be considered.
“Unless fuel price is reversed and the oil and gas sector placed under public ownership and workers democratic control and management, the incidence of inflation and collapse of living standards cannot be assuaged by mere wage awards or even a review of the minimum wage. This is because of the primary and fundamental role of Nigeria’s oil sector in the character of Nigeria’s economy and the prices of all commodities.
“IF the leadership of the NLC and TUC decide to suspend the general strike prematurely due to the weak concessions the Federal government is proposing right now, this would only be a postponement of the struggle. Meanwhile the current balance of force shows that labour can win far more if the general strike continues.
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“JAF once again assures the NLC and TUC of its solidarity and support always.”