Nigerian Labour Congress members at an anti-corruption demonstration during 2008., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Confusion As Labour Suspends Strike
Wed, 20/07/2011 - 12:12am |
IKPO IGBINOBA, SARKIN BABALOLA, UCHENNA AWOM, IGHO OYOYO, CHIZOBA OGBECHE, AHURAKA ISAH, CHIBUZO UKAIBE, and EZRA IJEOMA
... The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday suspended its proposed nationwide strike after reaching agreement with the federal government.
In a terse communique read by the NLC president Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, labour said that it agreed to suspend the strike on the grounds that the federal and state governments had agreed to pay the minimum wage.
According to the communique, the federal government will commence payment of the minimum wage as from August 1, while the arrears which would be calculated from March 23, would be paid not later than August 31.
It added that the implementation of the new wage by the states would take effect from August 1, while the arrears would be paid not later than August 31.
But there were fears that many would not report for duties today because of the confusion on whether or not the strike has been called off.
As at 11.45pm yesterday many workers were still calling media houses to confirm whether the strike would still be in force.
There was tension in most parts of the country yesterday as labour leaders and government officials were locked in intractable discussions aimed at averting the three-day warning strike called by organised labour.
Fuel lines resurfaced at fueling stations in major cities while depositors besieged banks for last-minute withdrawals. Housewives stormed markets to stockpile food for the period of the strike.
The Senate, yesterday, continued its appeal to the organised labour to reconsider its stand and shelve the planned strike, declaring that it would give both sides conducive opportunity for a resolution to be arrived at.
Briefing journalists at the end of the plenary, Senate majority leader Victor Ndoma Egba, argued that an atmosphere must exist for talks to continue.
“I want to appeal on behalf of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the NLC that, since they are already in talks with the federal government, they should suspend the planned strike to give both sides conducive opportunity for a resolution to be arrived at, an atmosphere must exist for the talks to continue and proceeding with the strike at this point when they are already talking will compromise the process,” he said.
However, LEADERSHIP checks revealed that all was set for the aborted strike. Oyo State NLC commenced the strike 24 hours earlier in a pre-emptive action, as the congress kept its members off their offices insisting that the case in the state was peculiar.
Our correspondent reports that offices were under lock and key as most of the civil servants complied with the directive to commence the warning strike yesterday, even as teachers also turned their pupils back home, advising pupils whose parents are in government to prevail on the government to pay them the N18, 000 minimum wage or remain at home with them.
The state government, in the statement, alleged that some extraneous factors beyond the norm were at play in the “Oyo labour leadership’s inexplicable intransigence and apparent desire to show to some persons that it was holding the government to ransom by every means possible”.
“We beg the people of Oyo State to beg the labour leaders as Oyo government is ready to pay the N18, 000 minimum wage. Except if there is an extraneous reason that is hidden from the eyes of everyone, this strike should not hold in the first place,” the statement added.
Officials of the various trade union affiliates were also sighted distributing fliers calling on all business owners and workers to close shop today in compliance with the directives of the National Executive Council of the NLC.
Addressing members of the various trade unions in Bayelsa State, the chairman of the state chapter, Comrade Ebiuwou Koku-Obiyai, and chairman of the state’s TUC,
Comrade Ayebatari Yekrogha, accused the federal governemnt of not being sincere to agreement earlier reached with Labour on the minimum wage.
Similarly, NLC chairman in Delta State Comrade Michael Akusu told journalists, yesterday in Asaba, that the decision to join the strike was reached at an enlarged meeting of the executive council of the chapter.
He stated that the warning strike would take effect from today and run through to Friday, July 22, adding that the interest sof the workers were being protected to ensure the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian populace was upheld.
The Judiciary Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has also mandated its members and all affiliates to commence the three-day warning strike and ensure that courts within the states and the FCT were closed.
A statement signed by national publicity secretary of the union, Marwan Mustapha Adamu, stated: “JUSUN National Executive Committee hereby redirects all its members to ensure all courts i.e Supreme Court, all tribunals including electoral tribunals etc within the states and FCT are closed.
Commercial banks and markets in Lagos, FCT, Yenagoa and Ado-Ekiti witnessed a rush for last-minute withdrawals and sales of foodstuff following reports of stalemate in talks between the NLC, TUC and the federal government.
There were long queues of depositors trying to make withdrawals to stockfood in the house for the duration of the strike which was expected to run into the weekend.
LEADERSHIP also noticed panic buying of petrol by motorists ahead of the strike, even as illegal vendors of the products were seen on major streets close to fueling stations.
Our correspondents’ checks also revealed that the prices of foodstuff and other household items had gone up at major markets.Most people lamented the arbitrary increase of prices by the traders.
A teacher, Mrs. Florence Jinadu, told our correspondent that she could not buy all the products she had wanted to purchase because of the sharp increase in prices.
“I was shocked to discover when I got to the market that prices of foodstuff had gone up substantially.