FG meets labour, moves to abort strike

FG meets labour, moves to abort strike

Monday, May 16, 2016 12:06 pm

Babachir Lawal: to lead FG delegation to talks with Labour

Babachir Lawal: to lead FG delegation to talks with Labour

Abiodun Onafuye/ Abeokuta

The call on Nigerian workers by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to shut down the economy beginning from Wednesday, 18 May,2016, may be still-born, an investigation has shown.

With oil sector unions, PENGASSAN and NUPENG backing out of the strike, the NLC and TUC are having problems galvanising the work force and the general public to back the proposed action.

Meanwhile, The Federal government is making efforts to dissuade labour from embarking on the futile strike.

An FG delegation will be meeting with the leadership of the organised labour Union this afternoon in Abuja. The FG delegation will be led by the Secretary to the Federal Government, SFG, Babachir Lawal.

Nigerian workers and some rights groups are demanding that the pump price of petrol be returned to the former price of N87 per litre from the current price of N145 per litre.

Investigations show that the planned disruption of economic activities by the organised labour unions to press home for the reversal of price of the PMS, may hit the rocks, even, before it take-off.

A source from the downstream sector confided in our correspondent that, “though, workers’ agitations were anticipated, the federal government was confident that it has done sufficient ground work to make the new petrol price regime a ‘fait accompli.’”.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabara had served notice of the union’s intentions at the end of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja last Friday.

Mr Bobboi Kaigama of the TUC echoed a similar plan, when he said in Lagos that its members had given the federal government up to Wednesday to rescind the fuel price hike decision.

Both unions on Saturday later issued a communiqué, urging Nigerians to stockpile enough food items to last them during the strike against a neo-liberal agenda in Nigeria.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said, “Government’s move to deregulate the down-stream sector was deliberate and well thought out. President Buhari and his team have a two-pronged strategy to contain any backlash that may arise.

“The President and his cabinet were well prepared for this and you could tell from the way they went about marketing the pain and gains of the policy initiative.

“This explains why the 2016 budget was very silent on any subsidy regime. No one could have missed the coordinated barrage of articles and social media engagements soon after the pronouncement.

“It was Ibe Kachikwu’s lot to lead the debate. Never mind the double speak when it became obvious that the junior Petroleum Minister wasn’t doing enough to safe-guard the ruling party’s (APC’s) endangered goodwill. Through him, the government was constantly in touch with us in the downstream sector.

“The tacit support given by PENGASSAN and NUPENG to the deregulation exercise was very predictable. Beyond the issue of fresh empowerment to players in downstream operations, what many did not also realize was that there were still loads of unresolved subsidy payments and that members expect a reciprocal gesture from Buhari for their support.”

“Don’t forget that the subsidy regime itself was fraught with plenty of fraud under the last administration. What looks like a capitulation by us is clearly a protection of self-interest.

“I think that it would be an uphill task for the NLC and TUC to ground the economy and force a reversal of policy without the support of NUPENG and PENGASSAN. It is not sustainable. At best, they would try”,the source revealed.

A Presidency source informed our correspondent on phone this morning from Abuja that, “the Buhari-led administration is willing to make concessions in the area of salary increment which has been a cardinal agitation by workers. We know that they need soft landing”.

The source acknowledged that the presidency is making frantic efforts to ensure that the negotiations with workers are not protracted.

“The relevant ministry and departments already have a mandate to ensure that the concerns of labour are treated with dispatch so that peace returns quickly for the implementation of the 2016 budget.

“Mr President is also personally in touch with leaders of the APC, especially the national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to rein in ‘radicals’ who think that the party is slaughtering its political goodwill too early in the life of the administration.”

Findings revealed that the long queues that used to be a regular feature across most states in the country, are beginning to disappear, leaving many to believe that the government policy initiative might return some level of productivity to the economy.

Already, the PENGASSAN and NUPENG, have tactically removed themselves from any planned strike, while the umbrella body for private sector employers in the country, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, has faulted the plan by labour to go on strike.

The body urged the private sector employees to ignore the strike directive and go about their normal businesses.

On its part, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) had insisted over the weekend that it is in support of federal government’s resolve to fully deregulate the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.

Also, a faction of the NLC led by Mr. Joe Ajaero, is yet to take a stand on the strike action.

The faction said it would be meeting with market women and other informal sector workers and civil society groups on how to force the federal government to meet its demands.

As things stand, the NLC and TUC planned protests may just run short of achieving its planned impact to force the administration’s hand, as government seems to have covered all its bases.


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