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Lalong calls urgent meeting with Labour leaders as nationwide strike commences

Tensions rise as Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress embark on a nationwide strike, triggering a response from the Minister of Labour.

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In the wake of the nationwide strike initiated by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), Minister of Labour, Employment, and Productivity, Simon Lalong, has summoned a crucial meeting with labour leaders. The strike, set to commence at midnight on November 14, 2023, prompted the minister to address the pressing issues with NLC and TUC leaders on Tuesday.

Sources familiar with the matter confirmed the scheduled meeting, indicating that leaders from the NLC and TUC are expected to engage in discussions with Minister Lalong. The strike was called to protest the assault on NLC President Joe Ajaero and other executives in Owerri, Imo State, on November 1, as well as unresolved labor issues in Imo State.

The President of TUC, Festus Osifo, announced the commencement of the strike on Monday, emphasizing that it would persist until “government at all levels wake up to their responsibility.” The assault on Joe Ajaero, who was reportedly arrested ahead of a state-wide protest, further fueled tensions between the labor unions and the Imo State government.

The strike directive was extended to various affiliates, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the National Union of Electricity Employees, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics.

The Presidency responded to the planned strike, condemning it as an attempt to blackmail the government. The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, characterized the strike as an abuse of privilege and a violation of a restraining order by the Industrial Court. He expressed concern that the strike, initiated over a personal matter involving Joe Ajaero, could adversely impact the entire nation.

In a statement, Onanuga stated, “Calling out workers on a national strike over a personal issue of a labour leader despite a clear court order against any industrial action amounts to an abuse of privilege. Power at any level should never be used to settle personal scores. Rather, it should be used to promote collective progress and advance national interests.”

The Presidency accused the labor leaders of disregarding the rule of law, labeling the strike action as “illegal, immoral, unjustifiable, and irresponsible.” The statement concluded that the strike’s intent appeared to be a hidden agenda causing undue hardship and civil disturbance in the country.

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