NLC To Commence Strike on August 14th As FG, Labour Talks Collapse

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Just 24 hours after reaching an agreement with President Bola Tinubu to call off their protests, the relationship between the organized labor and the Federal Government appears to have broken down. On Thursday night, the unions announced their intention to embark on a nationwide strike from August 14 if their leaders were summoned for contempt of court orders.

This decision by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was prompted by the contempt of court application filed by the Federal Ministry of Justice against the labor leaders on Wednesday. The NLC threatened to go on strike unless the government withdraws the lawsuit, which accuses the labor leadership of disobeying court orders.

Last month, the Federal Ministry of Justice obtained an order from the National Industrial Court restraining the NLC and the Trade Union Congress from going on strike over issues related to the removal of fuel subsidy and the increase in petrol prices. Despite this court injunction, the organized labor decided to proceed with nationwide protests due to the slow negotiation process with the government and the delay in providing palliatives to mitigate the impact of the subsidy removal.

As a result, the Federal Government initiated a contempt of court proceeding against the labor leaders on Wednesday, further escalating the situation. In response, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, accused the Ministry of Justice and the National Industrial Court of being “agents of anti-democracy.”

The NLC agreed to suspend their protests based on a meeting with the President but announced their intent to go on strike again from August 14 if the government fails to withdraw the lawsuit against the labor leaders. The union emphasized their commitment to holding the government accountable and resolving issues related to the petroleum price hike by August 19, as assured by the President and the National Assembly.

The statement added that the NLC resolved “To go on total strike across the country any day labour leaders are summoned to court by the government through the NICN 5; To demand the immediate withdrawal of this litigious terrorism by the Federal Ministry of Justice before the end of work Friday, the 11th of August, 2023; To embark on a nationwide comprehensive strike beginning Monday 14th of August, 2023 if this contemptuous court summons is not withdrawn by whosoever initiated it.”

The counsel to the Organised Labour, Falana, SAN, urged the President to call the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice to order over the contempt charges filed against the organized labour.

He also noted that the NLC had in no way breached any agreement it had with the President on the suspension of the nationwide protests.

Falana who spoke in an interview with our correspondent on Thursday night explained that his client had already challenged the ex parte order obtained by the justice ministry from the National Industrial Court.

The human rights lawyer said, “Labour is not in breach of any agreement. They were in a meeting with the president when a ministry official went behind to file contempt charges. That was an embarrassment.

“If the organized labour were in contempt, would the president have met with them? Would the police have marched with them? We have challenged the jurisdiction of the court, and we have challenged the competence of the ex parte order so she (Jeddy-Agba) knows she can’t be talking of contempt of court until our motion challenging the jurisdiction of the court and competence of the ex parte order is taken.”