The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress on Tuesday walked out of the meeting held with the representatives of the Federal Government, vowing to go ahead with its scheduled nationwide strike on Wednesday (today).
Representatives of the Trade Union Congress, who also attended the meeting, however, said the TUC would not join the strike.
NLC President, Aliyu Wabba, led the labour delegation while the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, led the Federal Government delegation at the talks held in the SGF’s office in Abuja on Tuesday night.
After the meeting, Lawal said, “The National Industrial Court has given an injunction that no strike by NLC and TUC should hold tomorrow (Wednesday). It is therefore clear that anyone embarking on strike tomorrow (Wednesday) is doing so illegally and government is assuring all Nigerians to come out and do their jobs tomorrow (Wednesday).
“It the duty of government to provide security for her citizens and anyone who tries to coerce any worker to do their bidding would be made to face the law of the land. We had full cooperation with the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and they said they are not going on strike. For them, it is a complete return to work tomorrow (Wednesday). It is not the same with the NLC however. They have two factions, one agreed completely with the position of the TUC.”
Briefing journalists, Wabba said his team arrived at its decision to proceed on strike following the inability of the Federal Government to meet up with its demand to revert to the N86.50K old pump price of fuel.
Officials of NLC, who pleaded not to be named, said they were angered by the decision of the Federal Government to proceed to court, despite existing negotiation which was at the instance of the government.
The Joe Ajaero faction of the NLC had initially on Tuesday said it would not join the strike while the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers as well as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Association of Nigeria had last week also dissociated the associations from the strike.
The action of the NLC followed the failure of the parties to resolve the dispute over the increase of the pump price of petroleum by the Federal Government from N86.50 to N145 per litre.
But the Federal Government has threatened to apply the ‘no-work-no-pay’ rule against workers who join the NLC strike.
The SGF, Babachir Lawal, in a statement on Tuesday, directed all ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies to invoke the provision of rule against errant workers.
Lawal advised civil servants to shun the exercise in their own interest, which, he said, was called by the NLC despite a ruling of the National Industrial Court, which restrained labour from going on strike on Wednesday.
The SGF added, “This notice is regrettably given in spite of an order by the industrial court against the strike. Government, therefore, calls upon and advises all workers to respect the laws of the land and to desist from participating in an illegal action.
“Government undertakes to guarantee the safety of workers and their workplaces, and expects that normal work will continue in the interest of the nation. Accordingly, security agencies have been directed to ensure unimpeded access to offices, workplaces and markets.
“Accordingly, all ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies are hereby directed to invoke the provision of ‘no work no pay’ in respect of any staff member who absents himself or herself from work to join the strike.”
“Attendance registers are required to be opened in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.”
There were indications on Tuesday that organised labour would defy the ruling of the National Industrial Court on the strike called to protest the fuel price increase.
While the Nigeria Labour Congress said it was not aware of the court order stopping the strike, the Trade Union Congress flayed the Federal Government for obtaining it.
The General Secretary of the NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, said, “I am not aware of any court injunction. As far as I am concerned, I am not aware of any court injunction.”
The President of the TUC, Mr. Bala Kaigama, in an interview with The PUNCH, described the action of the Federal Government in heading for the National Industrial Court as panicky.
“That is what we are going to the meeting to find out. Who instituted that? So, we would find out if it is going to stop our negotiations. They are doing it through panic. I think they are scared.
“We have not been served. Can you talk of what you have not seen?” he asked.
The NIC had, in its ruling on Tuesday, stopped the TUC and the NLC from embarking on their planned strike scheduled to start on Wednesday.
But earlier on Tuesday, the NLC held an emergency National Executive Council meeting in Abuja, where it decided to go ahead with the strike.
At the meeting, the congress insisted that the Federal Government must reverse the increase in the pump price of fuel from N86 and N86.50k to N145.