The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vowed to begin its two-day warning strike today, after shunning last minute meeting with the federal government on Monday.
This is as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, on Monday, warned that the strike will worsen the plights of ordinary Nigerians and urged NLC to shelve the action.
The NLC had on Friday, issued notice of a two-day warning strike to protest the excruciating mass suffering and impoverishment experienced around the country, threatening a total and indefinite shutdown of the economy within 14 working days or 21 days after the warning strike, if government did not take steps to address the hardship experienced across the country.
While briefing on Friday after its NEC’s meeting, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said: “NEC in session of NLC resolved to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from today until steps are taken by the government to address the excruciating mass suffering and the impoverishment experienced around the country.”
Reports said labour leaders shunned a meeting with federal government scheduled for Monday because Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, had a a media briefing ahead of the meeting berated labour leaders.
This, it was gathered, forced NLC leaders to shun the meeting that would have been held at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Federal Secretariat.
The minister was said to have threatened the NLC leaders at his briefing, foreclosing any chance that NLC would honour the meeting.
Vanguard quoted one of the NLC leaders to have said that the minister’s alleged outburst a few hours before the scheduled meeting strengthened NLC’s resolve to proceed with the strike as agreed by members of its National Executive Council, NEC, last Friday.
His words: “We were scheduled to meet the Minister of Labour and Employment later today (yesterday), precisely by 3 pm but a few hours to the meeting, the minister called a media briefing where he castigated us and threatened us among other uncomplimentary words.
“Not that the meeting would have stopped the strike, but we intended to attend the meeting in the spirit of social dialogue. But as you are aware, the Minister of Labour, before the scheduled meeting, held a media briefing castigating and threatening us.
‘’You do not expect us to attend a meeting when we had been warned of a possible arrest.
“In fact, we thank the minister for putting us on notice of their plan. So, the right thing to do is to keep away from such meetings and avoid any possible arrest.
“What the minister had done was nothing short of industrial dictatorship and naked blackmail. The Federal Government had already taken decision on the proposed meeting, the minister was kind enough to hold a briefing ahead of the meeting to disclose part of the government’s decision.
‘’Well, like I said earlier, the strike goes ahead as planned. After Wednesday, we will determine what next steps to follow. The NEC’s communiqué was loud enough. We cannot continue as if we are living in a different country from our political leaders and their cronies.
‘’You cannot continue to beat us and say we should not cry. Everywhere you go in every part of the country; people are complaining of hardship and suffering without concrete efforts by government to lessen our pains. Instead, the government is unleashing more policies to send us to untimely death.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government said it waited for the NLC to attend a negotiation meeting at the Ministry of Labour and Employment headquarters, but the Congress refused to attend.
Labour and Employment Minister, Lalong disclosed this at the meeting attended by the delegation of the Trade Union Congress, TUC of Nigeria.
The minister also said that the ministry was yet to receive any formal communication from the NLC on the proposed two-day warning strike.
He said the strike notice came when he was receiving briefing from the various departments in the ministry, adding that he had to suspend the briefings to convene the meeting with the NLC because of the urgency of the issue at hand.
His words: “In the last two or three days, while we were receiving our briefing from the ministry to set the ball rolling, we were confronted few days ago with the strike notice.
“Because of the urgency of that strike notice, we quickly summoned a meeting today (yesterday) and we conveyed a notice of this meeting to the NLC and I must apologize too that your own meeting came this morning and all of you attended because in the course of some of the issues that were raise,d we needed to sort them out and we believe that it was within our capacity to see if we can sort out some of these problems, even today.
“Because we raised our own point in our press conference earlier today that we just came on board, receiving our briefing to set the ball rolling but suddenly we are confronted with strike notice so we suspended the briefing to carry on with this headlong because some of the issues are issues that we are already getting briefing from our department.
“So we thought that by commencing this briefing we will have a headway in solving some of the problems . So just yesterday we also got information that the TUC also met but when we got the information, we said if that’s the case we will combine the TUC and the NLC so that we see all the issues and if possible treat those issues holistically.
“So that’s the purpose for this emergency meeting which we convened and I fixed the time for 3 pm so we kept on waiting for the NLC from three o’clock till this time we have not received any information about their attending the meeting but I am happy that the TUC is here.
“So, the purpose of this meeting like I said is to quickly address those issues that were raised and see the possibility of averting this strike action that is scheduled to be embarked upon by tomorrow.
“Although, I am sure up to today, we have not received any communication of any strike from the NLC.”