By Tongnaan Bawa, Jos
Following the ultimatum issued by members of the NLC and its affiliates to begin a 2-day warning strike on Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th September, Minister of Labour and Employment Simon Bako Lalong and the Minister of State Nkeiruka Onyeajeocha have on efforts to dialogue with labour and avert the strike.
Lalong disclosed this while briefing journalists in Abuja, on Monday, expressed his sympathy and that of the Government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR to Nigerians and in particular the workers over the challenges that have arisen from the removal of Petrol Subsidy and other policies of the government, said the measures taken by the government are aimed at renewing hope for the future of the nation.
He said “Like Mr. President has stated several times, Government is not unaware that the implementation of these vital but difficult policies, come along with a measure of hardship for all of us citizens of this country. However, the Government has to take these decisions now rather than delay them further and put the nation into more difficulties that might be impossible to reverse”.
Lalong said already, Government has taken steps to cushion the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy which are being implemented by the three tiers of Government. While some of these policies are being planned and fine-tuned, others are being rolled out as palliative measures to bring temporary relief to Nigerians. On the long run, the government of President Tinubu will put in place measures that will empower the people as well as create jobs and prosperity.
While appealing to the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), he reassured Nigerian workers that the government would never take them for granted nor fail to appreciate their support and understanding.
“We shall continue to pursue policies aimed at massive employment generation in all sectors of the economy as well as look into immediate challenges that have emerged out of the policies of government. We cannot do this in an atmosphere devoid of industrial peace” he said.
The Minister recalled that on the directive of President, the Federal Government dispatched trucks of rice and other grains to states for immediate distribution to most vulnerable citizens. In addition, the National Economic Council under the Chairmanship of His Excellency the Vice President, approved the disbursement of N5 billion naira to the 36 States and the FCT for purchase and distribution of more palliatives and further interventions.
Earlier, Mr. President had directed the purchase of CNG powered buses and implementation of the policy for conversion of petrol cars to gas as a way of reducing the cost of energy for transportation.
He also disclosed that in the course of the coming weeks, additional measures will be announced having consulted with the leadership of the labour organised labour and key stakeholders. The issue of the review of minimum wage which was promised by the President will also receive attention so as to ensure that the Nigerian worker is not adversely affected by the challenges of the moment.
The Minister also responded on the conflict between the Nigeria Police and the leadership of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) which he said would be looked into without delay.
In line with the subsisting laws of the Federation and International Conventions that Nigeria is party to, I do not believe that this conflict is insurmountable.
As for the matter between the organised labour with Imo and Abia State Governments, the Minister said “I have been informed that the Nigeria Labour Congress and these State Governments had entered into collective agreements induced by industrial actions carried out by the leadership of the NLC in the States earlier in the year. I would also appeal for calm on this matter, to allow us to follow the laid down procedures of dispute resolution rather than confrontation, which has not yielded the desired results yet. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results”.
He also spoke on the claims of violation of workers’ rights by some employers with regards to membership of the Unions in the Aviation Sector, and disclosed that he was yet to receive a Trade Dispute Form properly submitted to his office on the matter as required by the Trade Disputes Act CAP T8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Lalong also addressed one of the issues raised by the NLC which involves marauders unleashing terror on farmers across the country. He called for support the security agencies to continue to investigate and bring the culprits to book and also advised citizens to desist from taking laws into their own hands and report such matters involving members of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuffs Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) to authorities for amicable resolution and proper action.
The Minister and labour leadership will continue interface this Monday.