Hardship: Warning strike product of frustration, NLC tells FG - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Monday, September 18, 2023

Hardship: Warning strike product of frustration, NLC tells FG

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, on Monday said the two - day warning strike it declared on 5th and 6th August, 2023, was a "product of frustration caused by the economic situation in the country."

This is as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong has said that the Federal Government is committed to addressing the valid grievances expressed by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, that fueled the recent labour crisis. 

Speaking at the meeting with Minister of Labour and Employment before the meeting went into a closed-door session, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero said "none of the demands put before the federal government had been addressed."

Some of the demands of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress included: wage award, tax exemptions and allowances to public sector workers, provision of Compressed Natural Gas buses, release of modalities for the N70 billion for Small and Medium Enterprises, release of officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers by the police among others. 

The NLC President lamented the lack of trust between government and the union in the negotiation process. 

According to him, "We came with mixed feeling whether it will work or not because we have had many meetings, some beyond this level, yet nothing seem to be coming out of it. But I have great optimism in the Nigerian project; we can't stop trying. 

"We are here with that belief that something may happen. But that doubt, that trust gap is what we feared for a long time now and it calls for lamentation. 

"The strike is an effect of a policy that doesn't have human face. There was no strike before the removal of fuel subsidy. It was the government that said ask for palliatives, ask for wages and we have asked for it. That warning strike was a product of frustration, up till this moment. 

"We must work together to ensure that we don't keep on dragging these issues. It is the Nigerian people that are being affected, they are the people that are suffering. We have a lot of demands that we have put on paper for the government. 

"There is the issue of CNG, refineries working, wage award and cash transfer. Of all these agreements, not even one has been addressed by the government and you want us to meet everyday. 

"Some of us have been around for a long time and our job is not to go on strike but when you enter into an agreement that agreement should be implemented. Before the warning strike we raised the issues of palliatives and wage award and the NURTW. 

"Nobody earning N30, 000 or N60, 000 will buy fuel for one week. We need to find solutions to all these problems and we have articulated them. Each time we finish they ask for time. They asked for eight weeks we gave them. They asked for four weeks we gave them. We don't know what to tell our colleagues or members again. We hope that at the end of this meeting we will have something to tell our members. This is a neck breaking meeting."

In his opening remarks, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, flanked by the Minister of State, Nkeiruka Onyejecha, told the NLC that it acknowledged and appreciate the invaluable role it plays in championing the rights and welfare of workers in the country and pleaded for cooperation and understanding as efforts are being made to sort out the teething problems.

Lalong said that the government was committed to addressing all the concerns raised by the NLC in a just and equitable manner.

He, however said government must be mindful of striking a balance that promotes economic growth and secures sustainable progress for the nation as it attempts to address the demands of labour. 

He said, "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. 

"We acknowledge the valid grievances that have fueled the recent labour crisis, and we are committed to addressing them in a just and equitable manner."

He expressed appreciation for the NLC's presence at the meeting aimed at addressing recent labour crisis and nurturing of economic advancement in the country.

According to him, "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.

"We must also recognize the economic realities that confront us. 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.

"In the spirit of unity and with utmost commitment to the betterment of our nation, 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 he was confident that the meeting will produce resolutions that would propel the labour sector towards greater strength, as well as the country towards a brighter future. 

"We eagerly look forward to our discussions today, knowing that the harmonious collaboration between the government and the NLC will facilitate an environment where our workforce thrives, and our economy flourishes, " he said.

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