The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, said yesterday the federal government has till Friday to meet its demands or risk another round of industrial unrest.
This came as the government pleaded for more time to address grievances of the labour movement.
However, Vanguard gathered at the resumed meeting between the Ministry of Labour and Employment and NLC that leadership of the labour movement told the government categorically that nobody could accuse it of not giving government more than enough time to address its demands.
Some of the demands include wage award, tax exemptions and allowances to public sector workers, reduction of cost of governance, provision of Compressed Natural Gas, CNG, buses, release of modalities for N70 billion for Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, release of officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, by the police and vacation of occupation of Police-backed interlopers, among others.
One of the leaders of NLC at the meeting informed Vanguard that among others, President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, pointed out that the 21-day ultimatum would expire in a few days and hoped the government met the union’s demands before then.
”Precisely, our 21-day’s ultimatum will expire this Friday, September 22. Recall that we issued the ultimatum on September 1, 2023. So, Comrade Ajaero has made that point clear, that the government has up till Friday to address our demands or risk another round of industrial unrest.
”He cited the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, quagmire and asked that the Police and Federal government are called to order to give respite to the union.
”The NURTW issue is within the purview of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, FMLE, which the ministry can immediately resolve.
“At the closed door meeting, after the recess, when the Minister of Labour, Simon Lalong, who initiated the meeting, called on NLC to give the government more time to address our demands, Ajaero responded that nobody can accuse the congress of not giving the government reasonable time because we have given more than enough time to the government to act.
”It is not fair to ask us to give the government a reasonable period when we have already done so. He urged the minister to expedite action within the remaining days of the ultimatum.
”He informed the minister that it is impossible for the congress to leave the meeting without achieving some of our objectives. We will not tell Nigerians that what we got is that we should give government reasonable time.
”So, it is up to the government to meet our demands before Friday. After Friday, NLC will take any industrial action it deems appropriate to respond to the demand of the time,” the source said.
Earlier, Labour Minister, Simon Lalong, had said the Federal Government was committed to addressing the valid grievances expressed by the NLC.
Lalong, who was flanked by the Minister of State, Nkeiruka Onyejecha, told the NLC that it acknowledged and appreciated the invaluable role it played in championing the rights and welfare of workers in the country and pleaded for cooperation and understanding, saying efforts were being made to sort out the teething problems.
Speaking in an interview with newsmen after the meeting, Ajaero lamented the lack of trust between government and the NLC.
He said: “The strike is an effect of a policy that doesn’t have human face. There was no strike before the removal of fuel subsidy. It was the government that said ask for palliatives, ask for wages and we have asked for it. That warning strike was a product of frustration, up till this moment.
“There is the issue of CNG, refineries working, wage award and cash transfer. Of all these agreements, not even one has been addressed by the government and you want us to meet every day.
“Some of us have been around for a long time and our job is not to go on strike but when you enter into an agreement that agreement should be implemented. Before the warning strike we raised the issues of palliatives and wage award and the NURTW.
“Nobody earning N30,000 or N60,000 will buy fuel for one week. We need to find solutions to all these problems and we have articulated them. Each time we finish, they ask for time.
”They asked for eight weeks, we gave them. They asked for four weeks, we gave them. We don’t know what to tell our colleagues or members again.”
On his part, the Labour Minister, Simon Lalong, said the government was committed to addressing all the concerns raised by the NLC in a just and equitable manner.
He, however said government must be mindful of striking a balance that promotes economic growth and secures sustainable progress for the nation as it attempts to address the demands of labour.
Lalong, continued: “We acknowledge the valid grievances that have fueled the recent labour crisis, and we are committed to addressing them in a just and equitable manner.”
He expressed appreciation for the NLC’s presence at the meeting aimed at addressing recent labour crisis and nurturing of economic advancement in the country.
“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,” he added.