United Labour Congress: Why We Suspended Strike

The United Labour Congress has said it called on its members to return to their work places due to appeal from the government and the State Security Service on the critical nature of the sectors involved in the strike.

Speaking with journalists after a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, the National president of the United Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, said the union agreed to hold fire and continue negotiation with the federal government.

Members of the factional labour union had called out its members on strike on Friday last week over their demands.

The demands include a review the privatisation of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, and that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment should set up a task force immediately to inspect factories across the country.

The union is also demanding government recognition and a ‘Registration Certificate’; and the withdrawal of soldiers and police officers from the work places of the union’s members, saying the members were being intimidated and harassed.

Speaking after announcing the suspension of the strike, Mr. Ajaero on Wednesday told journalists: “My meeting with the DSS yesterday was a very friendly meeting.

“They know the unions that are taking actions and they know the implications to the economy and to the people of Nigeria and I also think they must have sent their security reports,” he said.

He said the major factor that led to the strike action was the fact that the union was not being recognised by the Nigerian government.

“Even the resident doctors have not told us who registered them, let alone over 12 registered industrial unions who have indicated interest, met all the conditions.

“And the law permits you to do that within three months and you have not done it,” Mr. Ajaero said.

“We have told you two or three conditions; like the issue of putting us in the committee for the negotiation of minimum wage was quickly addressed even before the strike.

“And like we mentioned to you, the issue of ASUU has naturally been taken care of. There are four or five conditions that are still pending which we intend to go into by next week.

“There are some sectors whose effects should have started coming in by next tomorrow. Sectors like aviation and as at yesterday, that of railway cut off. Of the 20 railways, we have only one moved,” he said.

Mr. Ngige explained some of the issues discussed.

On the demand by the union for repair of roads leading to refineries and tank farms, the minister said: “Work is ongoing on the Port Harcourt refineries and the tank farms in Apapa.”

On issue of labour factory inspection, he said “the ministry is reinforcing the department to play its big key role.

“Constraints and finances have not made the ministry discharge the function effectively but the unions were satisfied when they saw our plan.”

On issues of privatisation of PHCN and alleged militarisation of workplaces, Mr. Ngige said those had been discussed with the SSS.

He said some of the demands of the ULC had been resolved before negotiation began.

“Issue of salaries shortfall has been addressed, ASUU has called off and we are left with a few issues to resolve,” he stated.

The ULC was formed after Mr. Ajaero broke away with 23 unions over dispute of the outcome of the elections into the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress in 2015.

Mr. Ajaero ran for the presidency of the NLC in that election but was defeated by Ayuba Wabba. He and his group later held another congress in Lagos, which returned Mr. Ajaero as NLC president. But his faction was not accorded recognition by government.

It later transformed into the United Labour Congress which applied for registration and is asking to be given certificate of registration as part of the issues in the suspended strike by its members.