The Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, have refused to suspend their plan to embark on a nationwide strike on Monday.
The two unions had resolved to go on strike on Monday to protest against the recent hikes in pump price of petroleum and electricity tariff.
But when they met with the house leadership in Abuja on Sunday, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house, asked the unions to shelve the plan to give room for negotiations.
Present at the meeting is a three-man team from Labour consisting President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba; President The Trade Union Congress (TUC) Quadri Olaleye and NLC Secretary General, Emma Ugboaja.
Ayuba Wabba, and Quadri Olaleye, condemned the government’s delay in reversing the hikes as demanded.
Speaking after the meeting, Wabba said if the issues are not addressed, “all the actions pronounced will be taken as the notice expires tomorrow”.
He, however, commended the house leadership for its intervention.
“We also told him (Gbajabiamila) how the meeting with federal government went and how the meeting was adjourned and he has promised to also intervene at his own level to see that we don’t inflict more pains on Nigerians,” he said.
“In the course of the discussion, we have also realised that the House of Representatives has done a lot on the issue including recommendations which they have shared mutually.”
On the restraining order from the court, Wabba said the organised labour has not been served with any restraining order from a court in respect to the planned strike, and he asked the federal government not to ambush the unions with any court action.
He however noted that “There is a valid judgement of the federal high court stopping the tariff increase and that judgement is still subsisting.”
During the meeting between labour and the lawmakers, Wabba said the proposed strike was in the interest of Nigerians.
To counter Wabba, Gbajabiamila explained why Labour should not go on strike in the interest of Nigerians.
Gbajabiamila, who was at the meeting with Chairman of the House Committee on Labour, Mohammed Wudil and Deputy House Leader, Peter Akpatason, said shutting down economic activities through a debilitating strike will hurt more citizens the Organised Labour is seeking to protect.
He said there could be a different way to arrive at the same result as the legislature and Labour are on the same page, pleading for more time.
Gbajabiamila, however, offerred labour some palliatives which he said would be included in the proposed 2021 budget.
He explained that the budget would soon be presented to the National Assembly, stressing that some palliatives were being considered to cushion the effects of increase in electricity tariff and fuel price hike.
The palliatives, according to the speaker, includes distribution of food items, reduction of taxes on minimum wage and payment of some special allowances.
Others are involvement in ownership of housing programmes through mortgage and distribution of special buses to public institutions which run on auto gas.
Gbajabiamila said that the palliatives would go a long way to assuage the suffering of Nigerians.
He said the lawmakers would also make provision in the budget to tackle the eight million deficit of meters to enable Nigerians to access them.
Gbajabiamila, who described estimated billing as a scam, said: “I have never heard it anywhere in the world, so if we may have to provide for the deficit, we will have to do that.”
He appealed to labour to suspend the planned strike, saying embarking on industrial action at this critical time would not augur well for the citizenry.
“You know, you cannot go on strike at this time, if you go on strike, the people you think you are protecting will be at the receiving end, we share your philosophy regarding workers’ rights.
“We know what Nigerians are going through, our position on electricity billing is obvious, the only thing now is to continue to talk, I am concerned about the people out there.
“Shutting down the markets, banks and other places of work is my worry, I am concerned about the people,” he said.
Gbajabiamila said that there was the need for every Nigerian to be properly metered in order to capture the true cost, adding that the lawmakers would consider metering in the 2021 budget.
The national industrial court in Abuja had granted an order of interim injunction restraining the labour unions from embarking on the strike pending the hearing and determination of a motion before it.
But Emmanuel Ugboaja, NLC general secretary, said in a statement that the unions will go ahead with the strike and asked members to mobilise for a protest.
The Organised Labour in Lagos State has said all sectors would be shut from Monday.
He said airports, banks, and offices would not be allowed to function.
“No airport will be in operation in Nigeria; banks are not expected to function, so no business owners should risk himself, for Nigerian workers have taken that decision”, NAN quoted him as saying.
“We are the workers and we are withdrawing our services; we have the right to do so because protests are our constitutional right. And I believe we will enforce it; schools shall remain closed until this action ends.”
The labour leader appealed to Nigerians to join the protest.
He reminded them that it was part of their quota to democracy.
On the increase in petrol price, Asogwuni said the federal government should have engaged the organised labour and other stakeholders.
“The government did not do that at a time it ought to; it failed in its duty to engage labour before time. On the issue of electricity, the government had earlier had an interaction with labour in Kano and we discouraged it from proceeding.”