HARDSHIP: Nationwide shutdown of economy, as NUPENG, electricity, health workers set for strike

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*Over 10 unions set, write states councils to comply

*Direct members to withdraw services from Oct. 3

*Why you cannot go on strike – Attorney General 

*Why the strike must hold – Labour


Labour unions in Nigeria have concluded plans to embark on a nationwide shutdown of the economy as they have written letters and, through same, directed their members to stay off work from October 3, 2023.

This was in line with the directive of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and joint decision of the National Executive Council of the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) for the mass action in protest against the failure of the government to formulate policies that are more realistic in mitigating the harsh effects of the removal of fuel subsidy in the country.

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The letters of the NLC and TUC to their members and affiliate unions across the states’ councils were coming same day the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, asked the organised labour to respect the June 5 order issued by the National Industrial Court, restraining both Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) from embarking on any industrial action over fuel subsidy removal and related issues.

In a letter to the NLC, TUC and their lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Fagbemi said that the plan by both labour bodies to embark on indefinite strike from October 3 was a violation of the subsisting order and a different disregard to the dignity and integrity of the court.

The AGF urged Falana to prevail on his clients to respect the order of the court and allow room for ongoing negotiations between parties on how to address the challenges associated with the fuel subsidy removal.

He noted that from the communique issued by the NLC after its National Executive Council meeting on August 31 and the September 26 joint communique by the Presidents of the NLC and TUC, it was obvious that the proposed strike action is premised principally in furtherance of issues connected with the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers welfare.

As at the close of activities on Saturday September 30, no fewer than 10 major unions had written letters, seen by this media organisation, directing their states’ chairmen to comply with directives from the NLC, even as the letter by Trade Union Congress (TUC) directing its affiliate members was also sighted by this online newspaper.

Also as at the time of filing this report on Saturday, none of the letters directing members on full compliance with the indefinite strike action had been withdrawn.

The DEFENDER reports that the workers are saying that they and other already impoverished Nigerian masses are going through severe pains as their pay cannot withstand life in an economy of N1,000 to $1 and fuel pump price of N600.

Among the major unions, whose downtooling will make huge impact on the economy during the indefinite strike action, include the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals and the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, among others.

Essentially, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), in a statement by its President, Williams Akporeha, and General Secretary, Afolabi Olawale, has urged its members to ensure full compliance by setting up compliance and monitoring teams in all operational locations.

NUPENG in the statement dated September 28, 2023 read in part, “Consequent upon the joint resolution of the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress as the outcome of the joint National Executive Council meeting of the two Labour Federation, held on 25th September, 2O23, we wish to inform all our members in the formal and informal sectors of the Nigeria oil and gas industry and alert the general public that the rank and file members of our union are hereby directed to commence full mobilisation and ensure an unwavering compliance with the directive of the two labour centres to all affiliate unions to embark on a nationwide industrial action from midnight of 3rd October 2023.

“The leadership of NUPENG finds it so disturbing and unfortunate, that the federal government of Nigeria and other tiers of governments are so insensitive to the excruciating and debilitating socio/economic pains Nigerians are passing through as a result of very harsh and sudden economic policies taken by this administration without any accompanying socio/economic policies to ameliorate and cushion the immediate effects and impacts those difficult and harsh policies are having on the citizenry.

“Further worrisome to us is the apparent lack of regards and respect to the cries and yearnings of the organised labour, civil society organisations and the general public by this administration. lt appears the administration is arrogantly taking the goodwill and the tolerance level of the workers and Nigerians in general for granted. This arrogance is demonstrated clearly and loudly by the ways and manners meetings with organised labour and outcomes of such meetings are taken with levity and disrespect.

“The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) is aware of the huge impacts a 24-hour industrial action by the organised labour can have on businesses and socio/economic lives of the nation, unfortunately, the government’s actions and inactions are inextricably forcing the organized labour to take this very hard and painful route of last resort to demand for needful socio/economic policies to ameliorate and cushion the debilitating and dehumanising living conditions of Nigerians generally.

“Beyond any reasonable doubts, the government has demonstrated high insensitivity, lack of respect and regards to organised labour and the Nigerian masses.

“Therefore, it is in the light of the above, that NUPENG as a responsive and responsible affiliate Union of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), will fully comply with the resolution of the joint NEC meeting and we hereby direct the leaders in the four (4) Zonal Councils of our great Union to mobilise all our members in the formal and informal sectors to shut down services effective 3rd October, 2023.

“All NUPENG members, including the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), Petrol Stations Workers (PSW), Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers (LPGAR) and all other allied workers in the value chain of petroleum products distribution must comply with this directive from midnight of Tuesday, 3rd October 2023.

“All Branches and Units of our Union are to take note and ensure full compliance by setting up Compliance and Monitoring Teams in all operational locations.”

A nationwide blackout is imminent as the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) also directed its members to commence full mobilisation to ensure compliance with the directive by the NLC.

The notice was issued by the NUEE acting general secretary, Dominic Igwebike, to its members.

It read, “Further to the notice of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on September 26, 2023, and Joint Press Conference of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress over the untold hardships being faced by Nigerians as a consequence of the high price of petroleum resulting from the removal of fuel subsidy, as well as other anti-labour policies by the government, the NLC and TUC have declared an indefinite and total shut down of the nation beginning on zero hours of Tuesday, 3rd October 2023.

“Hence, we are to totally withdraw our services and participate in street protests and rallies until the government responds to our demands.

“To this effect, all national, state and chapter executives are requested to start mobilisation of our members in total compliance of this directive,” it added.

Also in its own notice dated September 28, and signed by its general secretary, Peters A. Adeyemi, NASU asked its members to withdraw their services.

It read, “This is to draw the attention of NASU State councils and the branches to the joint resolution of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its Trade Union Congress (TUC), directing affiliates and their membership to commence an indefinite strike action from Tuesday, 3rd October, 2023 in respect of the non-challant attitude of the Federal Government in responding positively to the demands of Labour which centred around the need to provide appropriate relief for the pains inflicted on Nigerian workers by the removal of fuel subsidy as well as the harmonisation of the foreign exchange market which has no doubt brought untold hardship on the workers and the populace.

NASU members across the length and breadth of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are by this circular directed to embark on total and comprehensive strike a room as directed with a view to getting the Federal Government to react positively to the demands of Labour,” it said.

The National Association of Nigeria Nurses And Midwives gave similar notice to its members on September 28.

It read, “You would recall that the Federal Government announced the removal of fuel subsidy during the inauguration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu since May 2023, a decision that has meted untold hardship on the Nigerian workers and the less privileged.

“NLC leadership has placed a number of requests as a means of palliatives to alleviate the sufferings of the Nigerian workers without success.

“Several actions were institution by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, ranging from mass street protests, 3 days warning strike, and several ultimatums, but the Federal Government remains a deaf ear to the warnings of the NLC.

Consequently, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress met on Tuesday, 26th September 2023, and resolved to commence an indefinite strike.

Given the above, I am directed to convey the decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) National Executive Council (NEC) meeting to commence nationwide indefinite industrial action with effect from Tuesday, 3rd October 2023,” it disclosed.

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