The business community warned yesterday that the planned nationwide strike by organised labour over workers’ welfare does not bode well for the country and the economy at this particular time.
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is scheduled to convene on Tuesday to take a decision on the strike, NLC National President Joe Ajaero told The Nation on the phone yesterday.
The meeting comes at the expiration yesterday of the 21-day ultimatum given by labour to the federal government to provide palliatives for Nigerians to cushion the hardship triggered by the fuel subsidy removal.
It is demanding a review of the minimum wage, tax exemptions and allowances for public sector workers, among others.
Congress said the planned indefinite action, which is a follow-up to its recent warning industrial action, would shut down commercial and economic activities across the country.
But the business community fears that any shutdown of the economy at this time would not augur well for the country and the generality of the citizens.
The Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said last night that a national strike now would complicate the present economic situation.
“Like we have always said, when the labour union goes on strike, the economy is negatively impacted,” Ajayi-Kadir said.
It is not government that suffers, but the masses, he said.
Continuing, he said: “There are fears that if that strike is accompanied by violent protests, it will have implications for maintenance of peace.
“Whichever way you look at it, I think strikes by the labour union even at the normal time will negatively affect the economy, not to mention now that our economy is going through a lot of challenges.
“You are aware that this administration is barely 100 days old and there are quite a number of policy initiatives the government has taken that are supposed to help the pace for economic reflation in the country.
Those policies are yet to fully mature to start to yield any positive outcomes. In my own opinion, all hands should be on deck to get the economy on the path of recovery and reflation of the economy.
“A strike at this time is going to set back the process and may lead to further hardship for the people and the economy.”
He appealed to government and labour to resolve their differences on the issue, stressing: “I will particularly appeal to the labour union to consider other means of driving home their demands rather than grounding the economy because the most impacted will not be the government; it will be the people that they speak for.
“There is very high consumer apathy, very high cost of inputs. Even the movement of workers continue to be constrained due to the high cost of fuel and transportation especially.”
The Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Adewale Oyerinde, said on TVC that Nigeria cannot afford another strike at this point in time because of the adverse effects this might cause to the financial health and stability of the economy.
A stock market operator, Peter Adebola, said stock market activities may also be grounded should organised labour make good its threat to embark on indefinite strike, especially if the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) join the action.
“All stock market macroeconomic indicators would also go down. This is because the macroeconomic indicators that would influence the stocks would be negative.”
The last meeting between the federal government and labour had ended in a deadlock.
Labour Minister Simon Lalong emerged from a meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima on Wednesday optimistic that the matter would be resolved.
“I don’t think there is any problem. We don’t have any fears about some of the things they (labour) put on the table, and also the suggestions and the package of the Federal Government,” he said.
“As for me, I don’t think there is any problem. We have fully spent time with the Nigerian labour, and the posture of the President too is towards the welfare and prosperity of workers.
“We have no doubt, and that’s why in many of our meetings with them, we did not end up boxing ourselves. We hope that the best is going to come.”
FG increases salaries of tertiary institutions’ staff by 25 per cent
Amidst fears of the impeding strike, the Federal Government has increased the salaries of academic and non-academic staff of its tertiary institutions by 25 per cent.
It confirmed the approval of the new percentage increment in salaries through the National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission (NSWIC).
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairman of the NSWIC, Ekpo Nta, in a memo entitled
‘RE: Implementation of the 35% and 23.5% salary increment for staff of tertiary institutions,’ and sighted by The Nation, reads: “I refer to your letter No. FME/IS/UNI/ASUU/CII/IIIT2/90 dated 8th September 2023 in respect of the above-subject. Find attached the circulars pertaining to the four salary structures in the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education for your information (attached).
It was addressed to the Minister of Education on September 14, 2023, and says:
“The 23.5 per cent earlier reflected in our letter SWC/S/04/S.149/I/59 of 28 July 2022 and stated in paragraph 2 of your letter has been increased to 25 per cent which accounted for the increased cost implications.
“This Commission is really pleased with the success your informal discussions have achieved. We shall endeavour to support all your efforts aimed at repositioning the education sector. Please accept the assurances of my warm regards.”
Another letter from the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF) dated September 21, 2023 also confirmed the increment.
The letter which was signed on behalf of the Director of Human Resource of the OAuGF, Ajanaku F.O, reads: “I am directed to inform you that the Presidential Committee on Salaries at its 13th meeting having taken into consideration the different stages of collective bargaining in various sectors and specifically engagements between the Federal Ministry of Education and Tertiary Institutions-based Unions and consequently the Federal Government’s approval is hereby conveyed as revised for the following:
“Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Salary Structure for Academic Staff of Federal Polytechnics and Colleges of Education with effect from 1st January, 2023.
“Consolidated Tertiary Institutions Salary Structure II for non-Academic Staff of Federal Universities, with effect from 1st January, 2023.
“Consolidated Tertiary Education Institutions Salary Structure for non-Academic Staff of Federal Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, with effect from 1st January, 2023.
“Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure II (CONUASS II) for Academic Staff of Federal University with effect from 1st January, 2023.”
TUC threatens to ground economic activities in Lagos over banning of RTEAN by state govt
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) in a separate threat says it will ground economic activities in Lagos State to protest the ban on the operations of its affiliate union, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) by the state government.
Ahead of the planned action, the TUC has directed its members to mobilise for a one-day protest on Monday as a warning ahead of total withdrawal of service by its members.
President of TUC, Comrade Festus Osifo, said in Abuja that all affiliate unions of TUC including Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) and others would join the action.
Osifo said TUC has employed all the necessary tools of engagement for amicable resolution, including writing letters and holding meetings with the Lagos State Government on the issue.
He added that the RTEAN also went to court and got a judgment from the National Industrial Court which said the state government had no powers to proscribe a trade union legally registered by the Federal Government.
Osifo added that the state government refused to allow the union to operate.
He therefore said TUC would utilise trade unionism powers to protest the ban on its affiliate union.
The labour leader asked the Ministry of Labour and Employment which has the powers to register and deregister trade unions to call the Lagos State Government to order.
He said: “The National Industrial Court, Lagos State division in its judgment told the state government to unlock the offices of RTEAN. The Court expressly said also that Lagos State Government has no powers to proscribe a registered trade union. But the Lagos State Government refused to comply with the judgment.
“On the 4th of September this year, we wrote another letter to the Lagos State Government drawing their attention to the government judgment and the meeting we had earlier with them where they promised that the issue will be resolved, but there was no response. All other attempts to reach the state governor were to no avail.
“In fact we have even reported to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and to people in the federal government that are from Lagos State to call the governor to order. What they are doing to RTEAN is the same thing they are doing to NURTW today. So this is fundamentally wrong.
“It is against this backdrop that we said on the 4th of September: within two weeks, if the Lagos State Government remains adamant in resolving the issue, we are going to carry out a protest and after the protest and there is no resolution in sight, there is going to be a total shutdown in Lagos State. Because what the State government is doing against a legally registered trade union is not acceptable to us.
“So in order for us to carry out a successful protest in Lagos on Monday, we informed the DG of DSS, IGP and the National Security Adviser. The reason is that we want them to provide us with adequate security. And we have informed all our affiliates to proceed to Lagos next week.”