Labour gives conditions to halt the impending strike

 LABOUR will attend Thursday’s meeting with the Federal Government on the hike in petrol price and electricity tariffs with a load of conditions:

The meeting, the second in one week, is to address the  concerns of Labour.

After last week’s meeting, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) leadership were mandated to meet with their executives ahead of  Thursday’s parley.

However, both Labour organisations served a notice of industrial action from Monday unless the government reversed the hike in prices.

TUC President Quadri Olaleye said: “We are going to attend (the meeting). I have also compared notes with my colleague Comrade Ayuba Wabba.

“We will maintain our position on the reversal of fuel price and the electricity tariffs increase. We will also come up with some other conditions which will be in form of solution to the economy. We should not be talking only about reversal, we should be talking about prevention of future unilateral decisions.

“ Although, we are attending the meeting, we are fully mobilised nationwide ahead of the planned strike. All affiliates of TUC and NLC are fully mobilised.

“More than 45 civil organisations and activist groups will join us in the protest/strike.

“We are also on sensitisation of the general public which include market people.”

NLC Deputy President Joe Ajaero also said the NLC would attend the parley.

“If you make a demand and you are invited to a meeting you will go there.

“It is the people that are inviting you that will put something on the table. You were there at the last meeting; there was nothing on the table.

“If what they put on the table meets your demand and the demand of your people, you will agree. If they don’t, you continue with your action.

“However, mobilisation continues. It is just a few people that will attend the meeting.

“Mobilisation across the country is on. The meeting doesn’t disturb the mobilisation.”

Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige, who told The Nation on Tuesday that the planned meeting would hold as part of the “continuous dialogue”, argued that it will not be in the interest of anybody “if the economy is shut down”, adding “all of us will lose, Nigeria belong to all of us.”

Spokesman of the ministry of Labour Charles Akpan reaffirmed today’s meeting with the labour leaders.

He said: “The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, will be hosting a meeting with the organised Labour.

“The meeting is scheduled to hold on Thursday, 24th September 2020, at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa by 3 pm.”

Governors have also joined the efforts to stave off the planned strike.

They have slated a meeting for Thursday in Abuja.

Ahead of the threat by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to resort to an industrial action to force the Federal Government to rescind its decision to hike oil and electricity prices in the country, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is holding an emergency meeting of all the governors to seek ways of settling the rift and finding a mutually agreed soft landing on amicable grounds.

“All governors are expected to attend the meeting as the matter is considered to be of urgent national importance, which needs to be quickly resolved in order not to worsen the already bad situation of Nigerians as caused by the Coronavirus pandemic,” Asishana Okauru said.

The government got the backing of the Ijaw Forward Movement (IFM) which chided Labour for proposing an industrial action.

IFM National Coordinator Alfred Kemepado, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said it was high time Labour stopped their old tactics and focused on economic realities that would improve the fortunes of the country.

Kemepado, who is the immediate past Secretary-General of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, said Labour should have known that the trend of importing and subsidising petrol was killing the economy and would one day be phased out.

He said any attempt to go ahead with the strike and possible protest would compound the problems of the people.

Kemepado regretted that Labour and other organisations, which were supposed to be working for national interest had been  politicised.

He said anything other than ending the era of importation of refined petroleum products and attaining self sufficiency in the sector amounted to promoting poverty and  underdevelopment.

The Ijaw leader said labour should cancel its proposed strike and mount pressure on the government to fix all the refineries and encourage private individuals to go into the business of refining.

He said: “Labour should not take advantage of increase in prices of petroleum products to cause more hardship for poor Nigerians. Every organisation that is supposed to be working hard to get Nigeria working has been politicised.

“OPEC released data about sometimes last year that from about 2015 to 2019 that the Nigerian government spent about $260 billion which is about N130trn importing petroleum products. Same period, OPEC also released data that the government got about $206 billion from the export of same petroleum products. This means between import and export instead of us making profit, we had a deficit of $58 billion about N30 trillion.

“During this period knowing that from the Jonathan administration when fuel was up to about N97 and Oshodi and other parts of Nigeria were locked down, labour should have known that we are on a trajectory. We are on a journey that will be counterproductive to the advancement of national interest if we failed to totally deregulate that sector.

“They should have known that the constant practice will only export jobs out of this country and import poverty. Labour and other organisations were here when the petroleum product was raised to about N147 per litre. Nobody spoke about it. There was no demonstration and there was no strike.

“Now it is about N151 or maybe to a free fall or free rise and you are all tryin to come and demonstrate. The valid question is what were you doing as labour all these period? Were you waiting for this thing to happen so that you can go behind and negotiate with the federal government and take your share?

“The right thing for labour and any meaningful Nigerian to do in the wake of all these things is to interrogate the system. They should asked NNPC valid questions. They should have mounted pressure on NNPC to know the timeline and when the practice of importing refined produts would end.

“Labour should focus on real issues of how we can fix our refineries that are getting people paid and promoted without producing anything. They should talk to the federal government on how to give incentives, maybe tax holiday and grants to private actors to build modular refineries so that we can refine petroleum products for our use and also create the jobs that we need.

“We can refine so much that Nigeria will be self-sufficient and we will begin to export to our foreign countries. That is what labour should be thinking about and not waiting for any decision of the government so that they can be factored into the negotiation process where something can get to them. It is not working for Nigerians. We are getting tired of this tactics”.

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