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FG meets labour leaders as nationwide strike begins

The Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Simon Lalong, has convened a meeting with labour leaders as the nationwide strike begins.

Our correspondent learnt that leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress are expected at the meeting holding on Tuesday (today).

A source familiar with the matter disclosed this to our correspondent on Monday night.

“The minister has convened a meeting with the Labour leaders for Tuesday,”  the source simply said.

The labour unions had, on Monday, ordered their affiliates to withdraw their services nationwide from midnight on November 14, 2023.

TUC President, Festus Osifo, disclosed this while addressing journalists in Abuja..

Osifo said the strike would remain until “government at all levels wake up to their responsibility.”

The strike is also to protest the battering of the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and some other executives of the congress in Owerri, Imo State, on November 1, as well as the pending labour issues in Imo State.

Ajaero was arrested by the police ahead of a state-wide protest in Imo, as disclosed by the NLC’s Head of Information, Benson Upah.

Although the police denied arresting Ajaero, stating that he was merely taken into protective custody to prevent a mob attack, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, accused the labour leader of meddling in the political affairs of the state.

The NLC and TUC later wrote their affiliates such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, National Union of Electricity Employees, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics among others ahead of the nationwide strike.

The letter to the affiliates was jointly signed by the National Secretary, NLC, Emmanuel Ugboaja and the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress, Nuhu Toro.

The letter read, “In furtherance to the decision of the Joint National Executive Council of NLC and TUC, all workers in Nigeria are hereby directed to withdraw their services effective 12 midnight today, November 13, 2023.

“Consequently, all affiliates and state councils of NLC/TUC are directed to issue circulars for maximum compliance and these circulars be made available to the National Secretariats or posted to the NEC and WC Whatsapp platforms.

“While we shall update you with developments as they unfold, do remain assured of our commitment to Nigerian workers and people.”

Meanwhile, the Presidency has described the planned strike as an attempt to blackmail the government.

The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, in a statement on Monday said the planned action is an abuse of privilege and one that contravenes a restraining order by the Industrial Court against the strike.

He noted that Ajaero’s assault in Imo though condemnable is a personal issue that shouldn’t force the whole country into punishment.

The statement read,  “This decision by the NLC and TUC other than being an ego-tripping move is clearly unwarranted. It is an attempt to blackmail the government by the leadership of the NLC.

“We are still at a loss as to why the NLC and TUC decided to punish a whole country of over 200million people over a personal matter involving the NLC President, Mr. Joe Ajaero, whose error of judgment led to assault on him in Owerri while he was planning to incite the workers in Imo State into a needless strike.

“While the Federal government does not condone any form of violence and assault on any citizen of Nigeria regardless of his or her social and economic status, it is on record that the Inspector General of Police has ordered an investigation into what happened to Ajaero while the Commissioner of Police in Imo State under whose watch the incident happened has been transferred out of the state.

“Calling out workers on a national strike over a personal issue of a labour leader despite a clear court order against any industrial action amounts to an abuse of privilege. Power at any level should never be used to settle personal scores. Rather, it should be used to promote collective progress and advance national interest.”

The statement added that the strike action is a sinister move to cause further hardship on the masses, noting that the labour movement should not be seen as one that shows disdain against the rule of law.

“Our national economy and social activities should not suffer because of the personal interest of any labour leader.

“This flagrant disobedience to a court order and lack of respect for the judiciary should not be what the organised Labour would champion.

“The labour movement has always been a champion of the rule of law and respect for the judiciary. It is a sad irony that the current labour leaders have shown disdain and utter disregard for the court orders.

“We reiterate that this strike action is illegal, immoral, unjustifiable and irresponsible. What the strike notice issued Monday night after official hours suggests is it’s designed for a sinister and hidden agenda to cause undue hardship and civil disturbance in our country. This is unacceptable,” it concluded.

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