* To meet labour leaders today
* Banks, ASUU, ASUP, varsity staff to join strike
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Federal Government has urged organised labour to call off its two-day warning strike scheduled to commence Tuesday nationwide.
It said the call for suspension of the strike became necessary to forestall a breakdown of industrial peace which would no doubt reverse some of the gains already made by the government.
In a last minute bid to stave off the strike, the Federal Government has fixed a peace meeting with the leadership of the two labour unions, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Abuja later Monday (today).
Addressing journalists in his office, Abuja on Monday on the impending two-day warning strike by members of the NLC and its affiliates, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, said government has already taken steps to cushion the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy which are being implemented by the three tiers of government.
“As we continue in this direction therefore, we must ensure that there is a robust line of communication with Nigerians and in particular the organised labour to forestall a breakdown of industrial peace which would no doubt reverse some of the gains already made.
“In this context, it has become pertinent to appeal to the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to suspend its intended two-days warning strike, as such action would be detrimental to the gains already being recorded on our course to securing a greater future for Nigerian workers and citizens at large,” he said.
The Federal Government’s appeal came just as most of the affiliate unions of the NLC and civil society allies including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Non Teaching Staff of Universities, National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) have expressed their readiness to participate in the two-day warning strike.
NUBIFIE, the umbrella body for workers in the banking and insurance sector, has vowed to shutdown activities in Nigeria.
The leadership of NUBIFIE has issued a notice that all banks will be shutdown on Tuesday, 5th and Wednesday, 6th September 2023 in line with the NLC two-day strike directive.
A statement to this effect was signed by the scribe of the Association, Mr Mohammed Sheikh.
However, the government has appealed to the NLC to give it some time to settle and address the issues on the ground holistically.
Lalong said that ministers have just been sworn in by the new administration, adding that most of them were still receiving briefings from their various departments.
“Therefore, the issues raised by the leadership of the NLC are some issues that I and the Hon. Minister of State for Labour and Employment are being briefed upon. In the next few weeks, we intend to address them holistically.
“Consequently, I use this opportunity to reassure Nigerian workers that this government would never take them for granted nor fail to appreciate their support and understanding.
“We shall continue to pursue policies aimed at massive employment generation in all sectors of the economy, as well as look into immediate challenges that have emerged out of the policies of government.
“We cannot do this in an atmosphere devoid of industrial peace,” he said.
The minister said he was yet to receive official communication of the NLC communiqué following its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, as required by law.
“Like many Nigerians, I and the Hon. Minister of State got the information from media sources. I believe my dear comrades will do the needful by following laid down processes for handling such matters since the cabinet is now in place unlike previously when there was no cabinet on ground,” he said.
On the progress so far made by government to address the demands of labour, Lalong said the president has approved several measures to help cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.
According to him, palliative measures are already being handled and implemented, beginning with the state and local governments.
“You will recall that on the directive of Mr. President, the Federal Government dispatched trucks of rice and other grains to states for immediate distribution to most vulnerable citizens.
“In addition, the National Economic Council under the chairmanship of the vice-president, approved the disbursement of N5 billion to the 36 states and the FCT for purchase and distribution of more palliatives and further interventions.
“Earlier, Mr. President had directed the purchase of CNG-powered buses and implementation of the policy for conversion of petrol cars to gas as a way of reducing the cost of energy for transportation.
“In the course of the coming weeks, additional measures will be announced having consulted with the leadership of the organised labour and key stakeholders.
“The issue of the review of minimum wage, which was promised by the president, will also receive attention so as to ensure that the Nigerian worker is not adversely affected by the challenges of the moment,” he said.
Lalong also promised that the issue of the conflict between the Nigeria Police and the leadership of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) would be looked into without delay.
As for the matter between the organised labour with Imo and Abia State governments, Lalong appealed to both parties to employ dialogue to resolve the matter.