In a recent development, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has clarified its position regarding the two-week warning strike initiated by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) two weeks ago. Tensions have been rising as the NLC accused the TUC of reneging on their commitment to participate in the strike.
NLC President, Ajaero, vehemently argued that the TUC could not back out of an industrial action that it did not call.
“The NLC will not take under our watch if we give a strike notice and then a union that didn’t give a strike notice says they are backing out of a strike that they didn’t call for,” he firmly stated.
However, TUC President Festus Osifo has countered this claim during an interview on Channels TV Politics Today on Tuesday.
Osifo firmly rejected the notion that the TUC had ever expressed any intention to go ahead with the strike.
“No, we never backed out from the strike we did not call,” he said.
Osifo elaborated that the customary procedure entails one union initiating contact with the other to engage in a dialogue, ultimately resulting in collaborative planning between them before declaring a strike.
“In that plan, there are a lot of things that are looked at. You define your clear-cut strategy; you define the timing. You define how you’re going to isolate the downtrodden Nigerians. All these things are defined before both parties will now come and announce a strike action,” the TUC president said.
“But in this case, I can authoritatively tell you that TUC was never contacted in any way. It was the same way Nigerians saw it in the media that there was a warning strike on so-and-so day. So, when we saw it, we were amazed.”
Osifo highlighted that the union’s leadership, including its National Administrative Council (NAC), Central Working Committee (CWC), and National Executive Council (NEC), had to take action due to inquiries made in members’ group chats.
“Some of our officers were detailed to follow up but there was no clear-cut response. In our organ meetings, we X-rayed the issues from the beginning to the end. We looked at the issues of the time and strategy; we looked at everything holistically,” Osifo said.
“After looking at it, TUC felt that there was no time for TUC to go on strike. You will renege when there is a plan. So, if both parties agree to do something and one party now says, ‘No, I am no longer doing it,’ that is when you backtrack.”
Meanwhile, TUC has conveyed a stern message to the Federal Government, emphasizing the urgency for concrete actions rather than promises, as Nigerian workers grapple with the hardships resulting from the subsidy removal.
During a critical meeting held in Abuja on Tuesday, TUC President Festus Osifo articulated the growing impatience among workers due to the adverse effects of subsidy removal. He stated that Nigerian workers are facing mounting pressures, causing immense difficulties in their lives, which has left the TUC leadership with sleepless nights.
The meeting, initiated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, along with the Minister of State, Nkeiruka Onyejecha, aimed to address the concerns and grievances of workers. Osifo conveyed the sense of urgency felt by workers and emphasized the need for tangible solutions.
Minister Lalong, in response, assured the TUC that the government is actively working to address these concerns. He revealed that he had a meeting with the President to discuss the issues raised by the labor union. The President, prior to his departure for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, was thoroughly briefed and provided further directives regarding the implementation of these issues. This included a personal meeting with labor leaders to discuss the matters at hand.
Before the meeting delved into a closed-door session, Minister Lalong expressed his gratitude to the TUC for their willingness to engage in the briefing. He commended their commitment to the Nigerian project and their openness to dialogue, which he believes will foster greater industrial harmony in the nation.
Regarding this matter, TUC President Comrade Osifo stated,
“the TUC appreciates the efforts of the Minister but there has to be more action than promises because workers are getting more inpatient due to hardship occasioned by the removal of subsidy.”
He further said that
“workers are facing enormous pressures that are making life very difficult, which makes the leadership of TUC to have sleepless nights.”
He, however, said that the TUC hopes that between the next two weeks, the President would have done everything possible to arrive at a conclusion which the workers are eager to hear in order to douse the tension and threat for withdrawal of services by workers.
After the meeting, the TUC said it held fruitful discussions and hoped that the government will live up to its promises and responsibility for ensuring the welfare of workers and Nigerians in general.
Nevertheless, he expressed hope that within the upcoming two weeks, the President would have taken all necessary measures to reach a resolution that workers are eagerly awaiting, aiming to alleviate the mounting tension and the looming threat of service withdrawal by workers.
Following the meeting, the TUC conveyed that it engaged in productive discussions and retained optimism that the government would fulfill its commitments and uphold its responsibility in safeguarding the welfare of workers and the well-being of all Nigerians.