The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Wednesday handed down a two-week ultimatum to the federal government, warning it to reverse the recent hike in electricity tariff as well as increment in pump price of fuel or face a total shutdown of the country’s economy.
NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba made the declaration at the end of the body’s Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting in Abuja.
He said Nigerian workers were dazed by the action of the government on the increase amidst COVID-19 pandemic.
He said it was insensitive for the government to increase both the price of fuel and also electricity tariff at a time other countries across the world were giving palliatives to their citizens to cushion the effect of COVID-19.
“The CWC identified that COVID-19 and also the socio-economic situation of the country has given Nigerians enough suffering, and that the hike has reduced the purchasing power of Nigerians as well as Nigerian workers.
“Also, it has brought about a high cost of goods and services and we saw that it has eroded completely the gains of the N30, 000 minimum wage.
“The CWC and the National Executive Council (NEC) also took reports of the meeting that took place between Federal government and organised labour where NLC was represented by 14 of its leaders and therefore resolves as follows:
“The Central Working Committee issued a two weeks ultimatum to the federal government to reverse the fuel price hike or face industrial action and peaceful Assembly.
“In furtherance to this, the CWC resolved also to convene a meeting of the NEC in line with our constitution, on Sept. 22, 2020, Tuesday.
“This is to also give effect to this decision because the proposed action will commence on Monday September 28, 2020, if those issues are not addressed.”
The labour leader said the NLC organ was in partnership with her civil society allies to mobilise its members and other social partners to resist the policies, which the body said had driven many into poverty.
The NLC president also said the CWC shared their aims and experiences “arising from the exploitative nature of the recent policies of government.”
He added that these were evident even in some cases where N30, 000 minimum wage cannot actually pay for the electricity.
“The experience we have here is that somebody actually loaded a credit of N30, 000, it could not take him two weeks and this has been the experience all over the country.
“It is really a decision that is biting at every worker and every family and I think it is a decision that certainly requires reversion,” NLC said.
FG faults move
But the federal government has faulted the move by labour to down tool over the hike in prices of fuel and electricity tariff.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said this Wednesday while speaking to State House correspondents after the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
He also said the FEC has approved a new national policy on occupational safety and health, known as the National Policy on Occupational Safety 2020.
Commenting on the planned nationwide strike by the seven-day ultimatum recently given by the Trade Union Congress (TUC,) the minister said the ultimatum was already misplaced because it was addressed to the president of Nigeria, which contravenes labour laws.
“The TUC issue, the seven-day ultimatum was misplaced because they were writing the president and issuing ultimatum to him. The president is not recognised by ILO. The competent authority for this nature of dispute in Nigeria resides in the man who oversees them, which is whoever is the Minister of Labour and Employment,” he said.
Occupational Safety law
On the new occupation safety policy, the minister said it’s aimed at ensuring that all workers were safe at their workplaces across the country.
He said the policy was based on the provisions of Nigerian constitution and the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) convention.
“The Federal Executive Council today approved a new policy on occupational safety and health-2020. This policy is designed to make for safety and health of workers at work places.
“It derives from the main ground norm law of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which in section 17 (3c) prescribes that the Nigerian state shall make laws and bye-laws for preservation of the health and well-being of workers in the work places; men and women at work.
“It also derives from the ILO convention 155, which Nigeria has also domesticated. Again, that talks about making the work place conducive and ensuring the health and well-being of workers,” Ngige said.
The minister also said the last time the policy was reviewed was fourteen years ago, noting however that the new one has a review period of three years.
“The last policy we have was approved in 2006 which makes it exactly 14 years since that was approved by the Federal Executive Council and that is the policy we have been working on. But you know that 14 years is a long span in the life of any law, so in the course of operation, certain issues have been thrown up, the world has gone digital, work place mechanism and hazards have been changing and it was therefore necessary that we do a new policy.
“This policy we did now is what you call repeal and replace and it takes care of all that is needed for now, for the health of Nigerian workers,” he said.
The minister said the new policy gives specific roles to agencies of government.
“It gives specific roles to agencies, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Standards Organisation of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Health.
“Everybody has his own role now because it’s a cross-cutting situation as most Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government are involved,” he said.
He said the new policy has a review period of three years.
Court on doctors’ strike
Meanwhile, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) Abuja Wednesday ordered members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to suspend their ongoing industrial action immediately.
The vacation judge, Justice Ibrahim Galadima, gave the order following an ex-parte application brought forward by two groups namely; Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER) and Association of Women in Trade & Agriculture (AWTA).
NARD embarked on the strike September 7, 2020 over issues bordering on group life insurance for doctors and other health care workers.
They also sought the review of health workers’ hazard allowance as well as payment of the COVID-19 inducement allowance.
Similarly, the association raised issues of payments of death-in-service benefit to next of kin/beneficiaries, universal implementation of the medical Residency Training Act in all federal and state hospitals.
At the end of a meeting with the federal government, an added N8.9billion was approved for the striking doctors as allowances.
An earlier N20billion had been approved for the medical doctors and other health workers as COVID-19 allowances.
Notwithstanding the truce, the doctors are still pressing on with the industrial action.
However, the industrial court ordered the striking medical doctors to immediately resume duties pending determination of the motion on notice filed by the plaintiffs.
The order came after the vacation judge had listened to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Frank Tietie.
The plaintiffs had prayed the court to grant an interim order directing the NARD, as a provider of the essential services of health necessary to the fundamental right to life, to immediately cease its strike action and resume duties forthwith pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Upon granting the order, Justice Galadima adjourned till October 8, 2020 for the hearing of the substantive suit.
The suit has a minister of health, minister of labour and productivity, and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, joined as co-respondents in the motion.