In a high-stakes standoff, the Federal Government of Nigeria has signaled unwavering resolve as the 21-day ultimatum issued by organized labor approaches its conclusion on Thursday.
Despite a deadlock in negotiations during Monday’s parley, where both parties failed to find common ground on the contentious issue of petrol subsidy removal, the government maintains it has no fears of a potential economic shutdown.
Following a private meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja on Wednesday evening, the Minister of Labour, Simon Lalong, addressed State House Correspondents,
“I don’t think there is any problem. We don’t have any fears about some of the things they (labour) put on the table and also the suggestions and the package of the Federal Government.”
Several days prior, Lalong convened with the organized labor in Abuja. Nevertheless, both sides found themselves unable to come to a mutual agreement, with the Nigerian Labour Congress remaining steadfast in its demand that the Federal Government address their concerns before the impending expiration of the 21-day ultimatum, which was initially issued on September 1.
The union had issued this ultimatum due to delays in distributing relief measures, warning that it might resort to an indefinite labor strike if its demands were not met. They asserted that all preparations were in place for a complete halt of economic activities, set to commence once the ultimatum expires on Friday.
Following his meeting with Shettima, the Minister of Labour responded to inquiries regarding the deadline for a potential indefinite strike called for by the organized labor, stating,
“As for me, I don’t think there is any problem. We have fully spent time with the Nigerian labour and the posture of the President too is towards the welfare and prosperity for workers.
“We have no doubt and that’s why, in many of our meetings with them, we did not end up boxing ourselves. We hope that the best is going to come.”
On the strike threats, he said, “Don’t worry about that. That’s why I said it’s a friendly engagement we are having with them.”
Pressed for definite remarks on whether or not the strike kicks off on Thursday, the former Plateau State Governor sidestepped, saying “I don’t want to say that; I’m not the NLC’s President.”
In addition to various other requests, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have put forth demands for wage increases, the execution of relief measures, tax exemptions, and additional allowances for public sector employees, as well as a reconsideration of the minimum wage.
Although the Federal Government had previously pledged to reconfigure the framework for dialogue with organized labor regarding relief measures, the stipulated eight-week period for finalizing this process lapsed in August, resulting in no tangible progress.