Hours before the end of the 21-day ultimatum issued by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Federal Government said on Wednesday that it has no fears about a potential economic shutdown.
This is despite last Monday’s parley being deadlocked as both parties failed to see eye-to-eye on the labor unions’ demands over the removal of the gasoline subsidy.
“I don’t think there is any problem. We don’t have any fears about some of the things they (labor) put on the table and also the suggestions and the package of the Federal Government,” the Minister of Labour, Simon Lalong, told State House Correspondents after a private meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, Wednesday evening.
Days earlier, Lalong met organized labor in Abuja. However, both parties failed to reach a consensus as the Nigerian Labour Congress insisted that the FG meet its demands ahead of the 21-day ultimatum it issued on September 1.
The union had handed down the 21-day ultimatum over the delay in sharing palliatives, saying it might be compelled to declare an indefinite labor action if its demands were not met.
It said all is set for a total shutdown of the economy, which would start at the expiration of the ultimatum on Friday.
Following his meeting with Shettima, the labor minister responded to questions about the deadline for an indefinite strike by organized labor, saying, “As for me, I don’t think there is any problem. We have fully spent time with Nigerian labor, 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.”
On the strike threats, he said, “Don’t worry about that. That’s why I said it’s a friendly engagement we are having with them.”
Pressed for definite remarks on whether or not the strike kicks off on Thursday, the former Plateau State Governor sidestepped, saying, “I don’t want to say that; I’m not the NLC’s President.”
Among other demands, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress are asking for wage awards, the implementation of palliatives, tax exemptions and allowances for public sector workers, and a review of the minimum wage.
Though the FG committed to restructuring the framework for engagement with organized labor on palliatives, the eight-week timeframe set for the conclusion of the process expired in August with no action.