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Indefinite strike: MAN, NECA, others kick as NLC decides Tuesday



The business community warned yesterday that the planned nationwide strike by organised labour over workers’ welfare does not bode well for the country and the economy at this particular time.
The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is scheduled to convene on Tuesday to take a decision on the strike, NLC National President Joe Ajaero told The Nation on the phone yesterday.

The meeting comes at the expiration yesterday of the 21-day ultimatum given by labour to the federal government to provide palliatives for Nigerians to cushion the hardship triggered by the fuel subsidy removal.

It is demanding a review of the minimum wage, tax exemptions and allowances for public sector workers, among others.

Congress said the planned indefinite action, which is a follow-up to its recent warning industrial action, would shut down commercial and economic activities across the country.

But the business community fears that any shutdown of the economy at this time would not augur well for the country and the generality of the citizens.

The Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said last night that a national strike now would complicate the present economic situation.

“Like we have always said, when the labour union goes on strike, the economy is negatively impacted,” Ajayi-Kadir said.

It is not government that suffers, but the masses, he said.

Continuing, he said: “There are fears that if that strike is accompanied by violent protests, it will have implications for maintenance of peace.

“Whichever way you look at it, I think strikes by the labour union even at the normal time will negatively affect the economy, not to mention now that our economy is going through a lot of challenges.

“You are aware that this administration is barely 100 days old and there are quite a number of policy initiatives the government has taken that are supposed to help the pace for economic reflation in the country.

Those policies are yet to fully mature to start to yield any positive outcomes. In my own opinion, all hands should be on deck to get the economy on the path of recovery and reflation of the economy.

“A strike at this time is going to set back the process and may lead to further hardship for the people and the economy.”

He appealed to government and labour to resolve their differences on the issue, stressing: “I will particularly appeal to the labour union to consider other means of driving home their demands rather than grounding the economy because the most impacted will not be the government; it will be the people that they speak for.

“There is very high consumer apathy, very high cost of inputs. Even the movement of workers continue to be constrained due to the high cost of fuel and transportation especially.”

The Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Adewale Oyerinde, said on TVC that Nigeria cannot afford another strike at this point in time because of the adverse effects this might cause to the financial health and stability of the economy.

A stock market operator, Peter Adebola, said stock market activities may also be grounded should organised labour make good its threat to embark on indefinite strike, especially if the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) join the action.

“All stock market macroeconomic indicators would also go down. This is because the macroeconomic indicators that would influence the stocks would be negative.”

The last meeting between the federal government and labour had ended in a deadlock.

Labour Minister Simon Lalong emerged from a meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima on Wednesday optimistic that the matter would be resolved.

“I don’t think there is any problem. We don’t have any fears about some of the things they (labour) put on the table, and also the suggestions and the package of the Federal Government,” he said.

“As for me, I don’t think there is any problem. We have fully spent time with the Nigerian labour, and the posture of the President too is towards the welfare and prosperity of workers.

“We have no doubt, and that’s why in many of our meetings with them, we did not end up boxing ourselves. We hope that the best is going to come.”

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