…Rallies CSOs, traders, commercial bus drivers, others for action
…Economy may not survive, NECA warns
Amid uncertainty over the planned nationwide strike and mass protest against the recent hike in prices of electricity tariff and petrol pump price scheduled for tomorrow, Organised Labour, has dismissed court orders aimed at stopping the strike.
Saying it does not obey rumours, Deputy President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and President of National Union of Construction, Civil Engineering, Furniture Workers, Amechi Asugwuni, said traditional allies have been mobilised ahead of tomorrow.
This came as the umbrella body for private sector employers in the country, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, warned of dire consequences for the nation’s struggling economy should it be disrupted by a national strike.
Recall that last Thursday’s meeting between representatives of the Federal Government and Labour leaders ended in a deadlock.
Affiliates of the two Labour centres in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, have been mobilizing workers for compliance.
While some of the unions have already written to their employers for total compliance to avoid the wrath of Organised Labour, others wrote directly to their members, urging them not to be used to sabotage what they described as a national struggle.
One of the letters sighted by Sunday Vanguard was written by Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ISSSAN, directing all members to fully participate in the strike.
A circular by its General Secretary, Adidi Adodo, said: “ISSSAN enjoins all members to participate in the planned strike being convened by organised labour in NLC and TUC and Civil Society Organisations as part of the struggle to end impunity, which has been displayed through the irresponsible increase in the price of petroleum products and that of electricity tarrif.”
NLC and TUC had since Tuesday directed their state councils to intensify the mobilization of workers in the states and other Nigerians for the strike and mass action.
Speaking on the extent of mobilization and preparedness, a Deputy President of NLC and President of National Union of Construction, Civil Engineering, Furniture Workers, Amechi Asugwuni, told Sunday Vanguard that the mobilization was in top gear.
According to him, “all affiliates of NLC and TUC have been directed to mobilise members and since early in the week and up till this evening ( lastFriday). Circulars are being issued to members across the country and sectors to fully comply. As of today, nothing has changed and I can tell you that nothing will change between today and Monday. So, workers are fully mobilised. As of 8 pm Friday, we have not been served any court order. We are only hearing of one unknown court order and nobody obeys rumour. Nothing changes, the strike will still take place.”
As part of the efforts to achieve total shut down of commercial activities in the country, Labour leaders have also reached out to Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, especially pro-Labour CSOs, under the umbrella of Joint Action Front, JAF, market women, traders, commercial bus drivers, tricycle operators, commercial motorcycle operators, community-based organisations, and faith-based organisations among others.
As part of its mobilisation across the country, JAF held a public symposium last Friday in Lagos.
The theme of the symposium was “National Strikes and Mass Actions Commencing September 28: Issues and Way forward.”
JAF’s Secretary, Abiodun Aremu, told Sunday Vanguard that the symposium attracted large participants from the academia, students, workers, market women, traders and artisans among others.
According to him, participants were “unanimous that enough is enough and that Nigerians must stand up and fight for their rights and freedom from oppression and deprivation.”
Meanwhile, NECA has warned of dire consequences for the nation’s struggling economy should it be disrupted by the national strike.
Director-General of NECA, Dr. Timothy Olawale, told Sunday Vanguard that Nigeria could lose not less than N2 Trillion daily should the strike go ahead as planned.
According to him,”with the planned strike by the labour movements, we believe this is coming at a very wrong time. The economy is bleeding. It is faced with a looming recession, an astronomical rise in unemployment rate, reduced purchasing power, rising inflationary rate, rising cost of living, and unabated insecurity among others, making the country’s misery index worrisome. The economy is just coming out of total lockdown and businesses and individuals are not in the right place for survival.
“The estimated cost of any industrial strike to any economy is always devastating, not to mention the already challenging situation the economy is grabbling with. This would further have a serious negative effect on every sector of the economy- health, education, transportation, foreign investment, stock market, trade, etc. The country would be losing nothing less than N2trillion every day to strike action.
“The tethering economy cannot afford another ‘downing of tools’ by workers as the little gains made as a result of the gradual ease of lockdown might be lost, leading to an acceleration of job losses and other issues. We, therefore, call on both government and the labour movements to consider the survival of the economy and welfare of the workers at this time and reach an early compromise. Businesses are still struggling to recover from the negative impact of COVID-19. It is a known fact that the myriads of socio-economic issues arising from the pandemic are still with us. Government can revert to the old tariff while engaging the unions.
“In light of the consequences of the strike on the economy, we believe in avoidance as the management and control technique for the strike. While we advocate for total deregulation of the oil and gas sector, we call for wide consultation with critical stakeholders in reaching conclusions, as this will go a long way in resolving issues. This can best be achieved with good industrial relations. NECA calls on the federal government and Labour to observe the principle of social dialogue in resolving these issues. We hope Nigeria would not be made to pass through another national strike, which is avoidable and needless.”
Last Friday, Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the National Industrial Court, Abuja, issued a restraining order against the labour unions following an ex parte application by the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami ,SAN.
The order was on the heels of a similar one in favour of a group, Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association, last Thursday.
The judge ordered that both the NLC and TUC be served the new court order within seven days.
The federal government and the AGF are the plaintiffs in the suit marked NICN/ABJ/257/2020. The application was signed by Malami.