A meeting between the federal government and labour unions over the planned two-day warning strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) ended in a deadlock yesterday, as the NLC leadership shunned the invitation by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong.
The NLC had announced a nationwide industrial action from Tuesday, September 5, to protest the economic hardship faced by Nigerians following the recent policies of the government.
However, only the Trade Union Congress (TUC), led by its President, Festus Osifo, and other national officers, attended the meeting with the minister, which was scheduled for 3pm but started at 5.45pm.
The minister asked journalists to leave the meeting room for a closed-door session with the TUC representatives.
Some of the NLC affiliate unions and civil society allies that had declared their support for the strike included 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), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).
Lalong appealed to the organised labour to suspend the strike and give the government two weeks to address their grievances and find ways to mitigate the impact of its economic measures on the citizens.
Addressing the issue of palliatives following fuel subsidy removal, Lalong said, “We are already discussing with Mr. President and we are going to carry over from here. We now need a period of about two weeks so that we can address those issues and bring them back again for further discussion.”
Lalong, said some of these issues raised were very urgent while others would require a long time to address.
He said, “We all agreed that there would be no strike within this two-week period while we are doing our deliberations and, therefore, working towards realising some of these objectives. This was our discussion.”
The minister briefed the press on some of the key topics that were deliberated upon, such as the execution of government relief programmes, the conflict between the two road transport unions, RTEAN and NURTW, and the allocation of N70 billion to support SMEs. He added that the meeting also examined the matter of salary increment, which was suggested by President Bola Tinubu.
Lalong stated that the issues raised at the meeting would be part of the main agenda for the federal government in the next two weeks.
Osifo, who represented the labour side, said, “We came here today and we presented some of the concerns that emerged from the TUC’s communiqué issued yesterday and these concerns, as mentioned by the minister, were discussed.”
“For us, we think that some of these issues are issues that could be addressed urgently, like tomorrow or next tomorrow. But on their part, they also explained some of the constraints that are there currently.
“We looked at these issues, like the ones bordering on the wage award that today states are making pronouncements on what they will do for the state workers.”
Osifo expressed dissatisfaction with the federal government’s response so far, when the union was questioned. He said, “They have made some announcements, but we have not heard anything specific for the federal workers.” He added that the workers’ transportation costs to their offices had increased significantly.