As the clock winds down on the 21-day ultimatum issued by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), tension looms over the possibility of an indefinite strike. The Federal Government, however, remains unfazed, asserting that there are no fears of an economic shutdown despite the impasse in negotiations.
The deadlock in discussions between the organized labour and the government became apparent during a parley last Monday when both parties failed to find common ground, particularly concerning the removal of petrol subsidies. The Minister of Labour, Simon Lalong, expressed optimism, saying, “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.”
Prior to this, Minister Lalong had convened meetings with the labour unions in Abuja, but consensus remained elusive. The NLC had issued the 21-day ultimatum on September 1, primarily due to the delay in distributing palliatives. They warned of a potential indefinite labour action if their demands were not met and stated their readiness for a total shutdown of the economy once the ultimatum expires on Friday.
Following a private meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, Minister Lalong emphasized the government’s commitment to workers’ welfare, stating, “The posture of the President too is towards the welfare and prosperity for workers.” However, when pressed for a definite answer on whether the strike would commence on Thursday, Lalong deferred, remarking, “I don’t want to say that; I’m not the NLC’s President.”
Efforts to obtain a response from the National President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, proved unsuccessful, as did inquiries directed at Hakeem Ambali, another official of the Labour center.
Among the NLC and Trade Union Congress’ demands are wage awards, implementation of palliatives, tax exemptions and allowances for public sector workers, and a review of the minimum wage. Although the Federal Government committed to restructuring the framework for engaging with organized labour on palliatives, the eight-week timeframe set for the conclusion of the process expired in August without any discernible progress.
As the ultimatum nears its conclusion, the nation watches with bated breath, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the impasse between the government and labour unions. The outcome of this standoff carries significant implications for Nigeria’s economic stability and the well-being of its workforce.