The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) announced on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, that they would jointly pursue a nationwide indefinite strike starting on October 3, 2023.
This unified action follows a period of conflict and conflicting interests between the two labor organizations, which has adversely affected the general public, particularly workers, who have been severely impacted by the removal of petrol subsidies.
It is worth noting that, initially, the NLC and TUC held a joint meeting with government representatives in June, led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila. However, subsequent discussions with the government were conducted separately by each labor center.
The NLC and TUC held a joint nationwide protest on August 2, 2023, to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s perceived disregard for the struggles of poor Nigerians. However, tensions between the two organizations escalated prior to the two-day warning strike declared by the NLC for August 5 and 6, 2023.
The TUC decided to withdraw from the planned strike after a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong. According to some media reports, TUC leaders stated their decision to back off.
In response, NLC leaders criticized TUC’s claim, asserting that TUC did not originally call for a strike. Therefore, they argued that TUC could not withdraw from something they were not responsible for initiating.
The TUC leaders have given the government a two-week ultimatum to address their demands, as they believe that the government still needs more time to address these demands.
Following a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment on Monday, September 18, the TUC informed Nigerians and workers that the government would be announcing wage awards for workers the following week.
On the other hand, during their meeting with the government, the leaders of NLC informed the Labour minister and his team that the government had until Friday, when the 21-day ultimatum given by NLC would expire.
It is important to note that on September 1, when declaring the two-day warning strike, NLC had also given the government notice of 14 and 21 days to address their demands or face an indefinite nationwide strike.
As a result, the September 18 meeting concluded without reaching an agreement, leading to a deadlock. This meeting, which began at approximately 2 pm, ended at around 4.23 pm. On Friday, September 22, the NLC planned an emergency meeting of its National Executive Council for Tuesday, September 22, with the intention of determining the start date for an indefinite strike.
During this time, concerned elders in the Labour movement and civil society allies recognized the potential divide-and-rule tactics of the government and felt the need for immediate intervention to save the movement.
Sources revealed that these elders and civil society allies contacted the presidents and executives of both labour centers, emphasizing the importance of unity in achieving positive outcomes for the people, particularly the workers they represent.
According to Vanguard, after the intervention, the president of NLC and his TUC counterpart initiated communication and began discussing the matter. A wider meeting was subsequently held on Monday, September 21, which lasted for over five hours.
During the meeting, leaders of both organizations had an honest conversation and were urged to set aside their ego and pride in order to address the pressing issue of improving the living conditions of the suffering masses in Nigeria, particularly the workers.