Federal Government has admitted that the Organised Labour in the country has ‘valid grievances’ for embarking on a planned nationwide industrial action, just as it stated that except those issues are addressed, the latter may commence on strike as threatened.
Speaking during a meeting with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja, Monday, called to avert the planned industrial action slated to begin from September 22, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Simon Lalong, said the Federal Government, remains committed to resolving the dispute ‘in a just and equitable manner.’
Mr Lalong also admitted that except the Federal Government presents an acceptable offer to the NLC, the workers’ union may make go ahead with its planned strike, even as he pleaded with the NLC to allow their grievances be settled through dialogue.
“Government acknowledges the valid grievances that have fueled the recent labour crisis, and is committed to addressing them in a just and equitable manner.
“In recent months, our country has witnessed teething challenges, marked by industrial actions and unrest that have adversely affected the economy.
“I appear before you today not just as a representative of the government, but as an advocate for constructive dialogue, aspiring to understand your concerns and working hand in hand to find lasting solutions that benefit all Nigerians.
“I fully acknowledge and appreciate the invaluable role the NLC plays in championing for the rights and welfare of our workers. Your dedication and tireless advocacy have been critical in shaping a fair and inclusive work environment, and ensuring the wellbeing of our workforce.
“As we address the concerns of our workforce, we must be mindful of striking a balance that promotes economic growth and secures sustainable progress for our nation.
“Today, I call upon each one of you to join hands in an open-minded and constructive dialogue, enabling us to bridge any gaps that may exist between the interests of workers and the ultimate goal of driving economic advancement.
“Let us seize this opportunity to listen and understand one another. Together, let us explore innovative approaches, reimagining strategies that enhance working conditions and worker benefits while nurturing a robust economy,” the minister said.
Responding, NLC President, Mr Joe Ajaero, told the minister that only the Presidency can take decisions on its demands, adding that Labour is ‘ready to meet the government any time of the day to find solutions to its demands and avert the planned strike.’
Addressing the media after the parley, Mr. Ajaero said the NLC delegation had ‘a friendly deliberation with the government, as he expressed the hope that ‘even at the eleventh minute before the planned strike takes effect, amicable resolutions would be reached between the NLC and the Federal Government.’
“We hope that even if it is remaining one day, we will get to the root of all these problems. Whenever we are invited, we will be there. Both parties will work towards the realisation of these objectives before the last minute of the ultimatum.
“There is a larger committee that has set up technical committees. The ministry has performed its role to mediate and conciliate in the problem between us and the federal government. There is an inter-ministerial committee at the presidency level which is supposed to address these issues.
“The Ministry of labour can’t address wage award, the issue of CNG, refineries and others. The Ministry has mediated to ensure that there is no problem or get both parties to resolve these issues.
“We are ready to engage the government whether in the night or day, we are ready to engage but not at gunpoint”, Ajaero said.
The NLC had called out its affiliate members on a two-day nationwide warning strike from September 5 and 6, with a threat to embark on an indefinite industrial action if its demands are not met by the government.
Organised Labour has been on showdown with government beginning from July, this year after it had threatened to down tools if the Federal Government does not reverse its May 29 removal of subsidy on imported petroleum products, which it maintained was as action taken without due consideration and provision of palliatives to ameliorate the economic hardship that the policy will elicit.
Another planned strike for August was averted by the federal Government after it set up a tripartite committee, which included the labour unions, to examine solutions to the matter of petroleum products refineries and availability as well as, palliatives.
However, following allegations of non-commitment, the labour embarked on a two-day warning strike which ended September 6.
A fresh 21-day ultimatum is due to expire midnight of September 21, with a nationwide indefinite strike to commence the following day.