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‘Stick to agreement or face industrial crisis’ — NLC tackles FG over NURTW dispute

‘Stick to agreement or face industrial crisis’ — NLC tackles FG over NURTW dispute
October 19
19:09 2023

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has accused Simon Lalong, minister of labour and employment, of undermining the implementation of the labour–federal government agreement of October 2, 2023.

In a statement on Thursday, but dated October 18, 2023, the union said Lalong had “taken sides with people who had illegally seized the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) headquarters with police support”. 

The NLC also said the minister had failed to reinstate the democratically elected NURTW leadership, led by Tajudeen Baruwa, despite initial assurances.

The organised labour said Lalong had chosen to endorse and legitimise this hijacking with the state’s backing.

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“It is now abundantly clear that the federal government never negotiated in good faith and, consequently, was never genuinely committed to honouring the terms of the October 2, 2023 agreement,” the statement signed by Emmanuel Ugboaja, NLC general secretary, reads. 

“The NLC reiterated its earlier position that the NURTW leadership crisis was engineered by the federal government through the Police, aiding the Lagos group, who were members of the lands, parks and garages commission in Lagos state, not the NURTW to forcefully occupy the union’s headquarters in Abuja.

NLC rejected Lalong’s endorsement of “illegal conferences”. It said any deviation from the initial agreement could have grave consequences.

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“The government cannot flout ILO conventions, the constitution, and the union’s statutes with impunity and believe that all will be quiet.”

The union said it will be highly constrained to attend any meeting Lalong organises for the implementation of their agreement.

NLC said: “A minister of labour is supposed to be an arbiter and as expected to provide professional guidance to the government on this matter instead he chose to contaminate the process with the same level of politics of the murky waters playing out in the larger polity.

“We implore the president to rein in minister Lalong, and if this does not occur, we will conclude that the minister’s actions align with the president’s directives.

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“Our allegiance is to upholding the rule of law and democratic principles, even if the minister chooses to disregard them.”

The union also said any continued non-compliance after 30 days will compel relevant bodies to take necessary actions adding that the government can “either honor the essence of the agreement or persist on minister Lalong’s perilous course, inevitably leading to a national industrial crisis”. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

On October 1, the federal government summoned an emergency meeting to engage the unions as a measure to avert the nationwide strike.

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The leadership of the organised labour later suspended the planned indefinite strike on October 2.

The labour leaders reached an agreement to shelve the planned action in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Joe Ajaero, NLC president; Festus Osifo, TUC president, and representatives of the federal government.

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On Tuesday, Lalong said the federal executive council (FEC) approved a 30-day implementation plan for the MoU between the federal government and organised labour.

The sixth item of the MoU borders on the alleged government interference in the activities of the leadership of the NURTW.

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Lalong, however, said the meeting with the NURTW has not been concluded.

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