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Fuel price: Uncertainty over Labour strike

The peace parley called by the Federal Government with labour leaders to resolve planned industrial action by the latter, on Tuesday, ended in a deadlock as the labour leaders reportedly walked out of the meeting. President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Aliyu Wabba, it was gathered, stormed out of venue of the meeting with members of his delegation. Wabba therefore declared that the planned strike would go on as scheduled. But in a swift reaction, the Federal Government described the attempt to continue with the strike as ‘regrettable’.

The Federal Government was relying on Order of the Industrial Court earlier in the day which nullified the planned strike and ordered that status quo ante be maintained. In a statement issued by Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Federal Government says, “The attention of all Public Officers is drawn to the notice issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to embark on an indefinite strike from Wednesday, 18th May, 2016. This notice is regrettably given in spite of an Order by the Industrial Court against the strike action. “Government, therefore, calls upon and advises all workers to respect the laws of the land and to desist from participating in an illegal strike action.

“Government undertakes to guarantee the safety of workers and their work places, and expects that normal work will continue in the interest of the nation. “Accordingly, Security agencies have been directed to ensure unimpeded access to offices, work places and markets. Acts of intimidation, harassment, including barricading of gates, locking up of offices, blocking of roads and preventing workers from carrying out their lawful duties will be met with appropriate response by the law enforcement agencies.

“All workers, whether in public or private sector are further reminded of the Trade Dispute Act, 2004, which provides that “where any worker takes part in a strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or remuneration for the period of the strike and any such period shall not count for the purpose of reckoning the period of continuous employment and all rights dependent on continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly.”

“Accordingly, all Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Government Agencies are hereby directed to invoke the provision of “no work no pay” in respect of any staff who absents him or herself from work to join the strike action. Attendance registers are required to be opened in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.”

Earlier, The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their allied civil society organisations on Tuesday resolved to commence from today, as previously announced, an indefinite nationwide strike to protest the hike in pump price of petrol from N86.50 to N145 per litre. The two unions and their allies decided to proceed with the strike, which takes effect from 12 midnight on Tuesday, despite an order by the National Industrial Court, sitting in Abuja, restraining the NLC, the TUC and others from embarking on the planned nationwide. President of the National Industrial Court Justice Babatunde Adejumo gave the interim order when he granted the exparte application that was filed and argued on Tuesday by the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami (SAN).

The court further granted an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendant/respondents from demonstration or engaging in any action that may disrupt the Economic activities of the country pending the hearing and determination of the originating summons. In his ruling, Justice Adejumo also ordered the Federal Government, NLC and TUC to implore an amicable settlement in resolution of the dispute that was triggered by the sudden increase in the price of fuel from N87 to N145. The judge regretted the absence of the NLC and TUC who were conspicuously absence in court and added that the court would have advise them to go for alternative dispute resolution.

However, the unions’ resolution to proceed with the strike was taken at a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on Tuesday at the NLC headquarters in Abuja. Although journalists had not been briefed as at the time of this report, a source who was part of the meeting but was not authorized to speak to the press the source said the unions took the decision to mobilise workers on strike, after exhaustive deliberations on last week’s fuel hike by the federal government and the attendant consequences on the Nigerian workers and the general public.

“Our decision not to suspend the strike was further fuelled by today’s injunction by the Industrial Court, restraining us from proceeding on the strike expected to begin tomorrow,” the source who said. Lagos In preparation for today’s action, members of the labour movement with their Civil Society allies marched through the Yaba- Ojuelegba road to sensitize Nigerians about the importance of joining the strike.

The Chairman of NLC in Lagos State, Idowu Adelakun, said the Congress as a body has not been served with the court injunction and therefore cannot be bound by it. He said, “Even if we get the injunction, that cannot hinder us from protesting. As Nigerians, we have the right to protest any government policy that tends to inflict hardship and sufferings on us. “We cannot accept the new increase and that is why we want Nigerians to see this as a struggle for all us and we must rise in total condemnation of it. Already prices of food, transport and other essentials have gone up almost above 100 percent.”

Ondo The Ondo State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Tuesday night directed workers in the state commence to an indefinite strike to protest against the hike in fuel of N!45 per litre announced by the federal government last week. The State Executive Council (SEC) of the congress which issued the communiqué shortly after an emergency meeting of the union members held at the NLC house in Akure, the state capital, directed both workers in the public service and private sectors to commence indefinite strike in protest against the hike in fuel.

The Chairperson of the Ondo State Chapter of the NLC, Bose Daramola and Secretary, Sanusi Adewale who jointly signed the communiqué said after exhaustive and extensive deliberations on the recent hike in the fuel price from N86.5 to N145 per litre the State Executive Council of the Congress hereby resolved: “To comply with the National Headquarters of NLC to embark on indefinite strike action with effect from Wednesday 18th May 2016.

“ That all workers in the public service: State and Federal institutions, private sectors are to commence indefinite strike in this regard. “Leaders of industrial Unions, Civil society Organisations (CSO), Artisans and market men and women are to converge at the front of Adegbemile Hall Akure by 8: 00 am on Wednesday 18th May 2016, for the protest on daily basis until otherwise directed by the National leadership” the communiqué read. It is expected that the workers would shut down business and vehicular activities as they joined their counterpart nationwide to protest the increase in the petroleum pump price.

ASUU mobilises members The National President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi has mobilized members of the union for strike and mass action commencing on Wednesday to force the Federal Government to revert the pump price from N145 to N86. This was contained in a letter dispatched to members of the congress nationwide and read at the University of Ibadan Chapter on Tuesday where the Chairman, Dr Deji Omole addressed members.

Omole equally said that the chapter was ready for mass resistance to what he called obnoxious and callous policy of fuel price increment. ASUU president in the letter, entitled ‘Increase in Pump price of Premium Motor Spirit to N145 per litre: Proposal for Joint Action with NLC’, stated that “ASUU members are called upon to according to our Union’s principles, fully respect Article 2 of the Constitution of ASUU; that our Union and members shall work for the protection and advancement of the socio-economic interests of the nation.

“Branch Chairpersons are to conduct emergency congress meetings on Tuesday 17 May 2016 to mobilise our members for the action commencing on Wednesday. All branches of ASUU nationwide are to comply.” Ogunyemi anchored the position on “delayed, partially paid and in most cases unpaid salaries for a number of months by state, federal and local governments, disguised retrenchment of workers, especially by State Governments, in the name of verification exercise and endless hunt for ghost workers and heavy taxation” The UI’s ASUU boss, Dr. Omole described the policy of subsidy removal as the most criminal ambush by the Mohammadu Buhariled federal government to empower the rich and cripple the poor.

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