The meeting between the federal government and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC ) as part of move to avert the impending indefinite strike action by workers ended without reaching any resolution on Monday.
However, both parties have agreed to continue the talks before the end of the NLC 21-day ultimatum on Thursday. NLC national president, Comrade Joe Ajaero, who spoke with journalists after the meeting, insisted that only the Presidency and not the Ministry of Labour and Employment can take decisions on the demands presented to the government.
Ajaero also expressed readiness of the Labour Centre to meet the government any time of the day to find solutions to its demands in order to avert the looming strike. He said, “Like the minister said, we had a fruitful deliberation and we have agreed to continue to make sure we arrive at meaningful agreement within the remaining days of the ultimatum.
“We equally discussed frankly the issue bordering the coup floated and executed by the Nigeria Police against the National Union of Road Transport Workers, which has led to the detention of their democratically elected national officers and both parties agreed to show concern towards the resolution of the matter.
“It is one sore area that the trade union movement in Nigeria is not ready to compromise. Whether a coup in the trade union movement or in the polity, it must be condemned; whether it is in Niger Republic, Congo or Mali or in the trade union movement in Nigeria.
“On the other issues, you can see that there is no agreement or implementation on any. There is no CNG anywhere. Refineries are not working. No agreement on wage award. Those are the issues we believe that something will happen before the ultimatum expires. It is possible that something will happen.
“We had a convivial deliberation with the minister and we hope that even if it is remaining one day, we will get to the root of all these problems. Whenever we are invited, we will be there. Both parties will work towards the realisation of these objectives before the last minute of the ultimatum. We are ready to engage the government whether in the night or day; we are ready to engage but not at gunpoint,” Ajaero added.
On his part, the minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, said that discussions on many of the items, which NLC tabled previously before the federal government were yet to reach the final stage. Lalong, who acknowledged the valid grievances that have fuelled the recent labour crisis in the country, stressed that the federal government remained committed to addressing them in a just and equitable manner.
Earlier, while addressing journalists at the start of the meeting, the minister said the meeting was an avenue for constructive dialogue, to enable the government to understand the concerns of the union and work hand in hand with it to find lasting solutions that benefit all Nigerians. Lalong also lamented that the country has, in recent times, witnessed teething challenges, marked by industrial actions and unrest that have adversely affected the economy.
However, he stressed that while workers face economic realities, it was important to strike a balance that fosters economic growth and ensures long-term prosperity for the country.
The minister said, “I appear before you today not just as a representative of the government, but as an advocate for constructive dialogue, aspiring to understand your concerns and working hand in hand to find lasting solutions that benefit all Nigerians.
“I fully acknowledge and appreciate the invaluable role the NLC plays in championing for the rights and welfare of our workers. Your dedication and tireless advocacy have been critical in shaping a fair and inclusive work environment, and ensuring the wellbeing of our workforce.
“Today, I call upon each one of you to join hands in an open-minded and constructive dialogue, enabling us to bridge any gap that may exist between the interests of workers and the ultimate goal of driving economic advancement.
“In the spirit of unity and with utmost commitment to the betterment of our nation, let us seize this opportunity to listen and understand one another. Together, let us explore innovative approaches, reimagining strategies that enhance working conditions and worker benefits while nurturing a robust economy,” the Minister added.