NLC Denies ‘Reported’ Agreement with FG, Says Impunity Must Be Resisted

Nigeria Labour Congress has denied having any agreement with the Federal government to suspend the proposed nationwide indefinite strike on October 3, 2023, and urged that impunity should be resisted.

The Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah made it clear on Thursday that there were a lot of inconsistencies in the utterances of the federal government through the Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr Olajide Oshundun stating that the strike action is beyond the ministry.

“The press statement issued by the Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr Olajide Oshundun on our proposed strike action and illegal occupation of the secretariat of the National Union of Road Transport Workers has been brought to our attention. We note some inconsistencies.

“Accordingly, we find it necessary to make clarifications. Firstly, we do not have any agreement with the government to suspend the planned strike action. Neither do we have any date for a meeting with the government that may lead to the suspension of the proposed strike.

“While we do not intend to demean or minimize the office of the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, this matter is beyond the Ministry. This should have been obvious to them during our most recent meeting.

“Secondly, while we appreciate the role played by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Barrister Simon Lalong in securing the release of the executives of the National Union of Road Transport Workers from unlawful/illegal police detention, we take exception to the Ministry describing these executives as factional leaders.

“They were lawfully elected into office. We still find it necessary to advise the police and those elements behind their travails to desist from this despicable and shameful conduct. They are advised to retrace their steps.

“If democracy is to be of meaning to us, then we should resist the urge or temptation for impunity. Enough is enough.”

On Thursday, the Federal government asked the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, to shelve their plan to embark on a strike maintaining that it would be a gross violation of a subsisting court injunction.

In a letter dated September 26, sent to the legal representative of the Union, Femi Falana, stated that the reason for the strike which is the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers’ welfare has been submitted to the industrial court and any further action would be a violation of the pending interim injunctive order.

“The attention of the Ministry has been drawn to media reports on the proposed nationwide strike action by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, scheduled to commence on 3rd October 2023.

“You are kindly invited to recall the antecedence of previous steps/actions on this matter, particularly the exchange of correspondence between this office and your firm, before and after the nationwide ‘action/protest’ declared by the NLC on 2nd August 2023.

“Whilst your clients had maintained that the nationwide protest by NLC is in furtherance of its constitutional right to embark on protests, the Ministry has repeatedly advised on the need to advise your clients to refrain from resorting to self-help and taking actions capable of undermining subsisting orders of a court of competent jurisdiction.

“It is also to be recalled that based on the conduct of the said nationwide action/protest, this Office instituted contempt proceedings against the labor leaders.

“However, upon the intervention of the President and National Assembly, coupled with the decision of the labour unions to discontinue their action/protest, the contempt proceedings were not prosecuted further.

“This was advisedly done to enable the government and labour union engage in further negotiations without any form of encumbrances.

“However, in its Communique issued at the end of its National Executive Council meeting on 31st August 2023, NLC resolved to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from 31st August 2023.

“Also on 26th September 2023, the Presidents of NLC and TUC, jointly issued a communiqué stating that organised labour had resolved, ‘to embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, the 3rd day of October 2023.’

“From a review of the contents of the above communique and available media reports, the proposed strike action is premised principally in furtherance of issues connected with the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers welfare.

“These are undoubtedly issues that have been submitted to the National Industrial Court for adjudication.

“Therefore, the proposed strike action is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted on 5th June 2023 restraining both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on any industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending Motion on Notice.

“We wish to reiterate that a court order, regardless of the opinion of any party on it, remains binding and enforceable until set aside.

“The public expects that the labour unions would lead in obedience and observance of court orders and not in its breach.”

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