Labour vows to engage government in 2017



Except the three days protests against the increment of fuel price from N87 to N145 per litre in May last year, labour movement was largely quiet in the out-gone year.

In exclusive interview with The Guardian, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Association of Senior Staff of
Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), insisted that the Federal Government has not gagged labour.

The unions attributed their increasing silence to the prevailing economic crises in the country, saying that workers’ support cannot be guaranteed in an environment of uncertainty.

On his part, the Lagos State Chairman of NLC, Idowu Adelakan, agreed that there were issues that warranted protests or rallies but the members were not supportive enough to push labour into action.

He explained: “We called our members to come out in order to stage a peaceful protest, but workers did not turn up. It got to a stage whereby we had to force members out, which is not supposed to be. Fuel price hike does not require force because it is a general problem that affects every Nigerian. Since workers are not saying anything about it, means they are all right with it.

“But as the hardship in the economy bites harder, members are now regretting their action.”

The TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, said the union’s silence was more of a show of solidarity for the new government and to give it time to settle in.

“When we critically evaluated our activities, you will agree with us that we had more industrial disputes in 2015 than last year, that is not to say there were no issues. Our silence was rather deliberate, and we had expected the new government to take the opportunity to settle down and hit the ground running.

“The truth is our economic and infrastructural challenges are so serious that they require every concentration to handle. This administration has really enjoyed the cooperation of Nigerians,” he said.

The National President, ASSIBIFI Mrs. Olasanoye Oyinkan, described 2016 as a tough year for workers in banking sector due to the high rate of job mortality in the sector.

She said the refusal of the union to protest or down tools was because most of the sackings followed due process.

“Although as a union we are not saying we are in a normal situation; we are in abnormal situation, and ASSIBIFI is not backing the banks.

We are seeing our problems to be beyond the banks that are laying off our members, our problems have more to do with government’s policies.

”The duty of the bank is to keep money and use the money to trade and get interest, but government keeps coming up with policies that do not help money to be available in the bank,” Oyinkan said.

She defended the union’s lack of action, saying: “Our silence is because going on strike or picketing won’t be a good way out for the banking sector because the sector is a very sensitive one whereby if our members go picketing, it will really cause huge losses for the Nigerian economy.”

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