Federal Government and the leadership of United Labour Congress (ULC) today, Wednesday unanimously resolved to commence negotion on the review of the privatization of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
The parties also agreed to further discussion on some issues bothering on: demands for immediate payment of all the arrears of salaries owed Nigerian workers at all levels of Government; militarization of workplaces as well as inauguration of the national minimum wage Committee, among others, during an ‘enlarged meeting’ to be attended by Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing; Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, among others; scheduled for Tuesday, 26th September, 2017.
Similarly, the proposed Federation of Trade Unions (ULC) predominantly from the private sector, also got assurances from Federal Government to be included into the National Minimum Wage Committee which is to be constituted soon.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment disclosed this while giving update on the over five hours negotiation meeting held behind closed door on Tuesday.
The Minister disclosed that various unions under the aegis of ULC, “have different grievances which were tabled and the government agencies present at the meeting tackled them. We have the Minister of Power, Works and Housing represented by the Director of Planning for Highways, we tackled the issue of the roads leading to the refineries and the tank farms and the road road leading to Mosimi and Port Harcourt refinery and tank farms in Apapa.
“After the deliberations, they were satisfied that something bad been done, works are going on. The Federal Executive Council has approved the contracts,” adding that the road construction contract is being carried out under public private partnership.
He however noted that other issues relating to the privatization of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), militarization of workplaces have been discussed on another platform, and that the parties have agreed to hold an ‘enlarged meeting with Minister of Power, Works and Housing; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; CBN Governor, among others with the view to resolve other grey areas in line with the demands of the unions.
While putting to rest the agitation over legality or otherwise of ULC, Ngige who observed that the ULC has not been formally registered by the Ministry, however noted that the registration of the new federation is ongoing adding that the promoters of ULC have met all requisite conditions.
“I can discuss with workers in all the sectors and unions that have said they want to go into the proposed ULC and I can discuss with anybody. I can discuss with (Nigerian Medical Association) NMA, NMA is not a registered union but collection of doctors,” the Minister observed.
He maintained that the application for the registration of the new Federation of Trade Union Centre is being given necessary and required attention, adding that “I don’t want it misconstrued that application, ULC is a proposed federation and some unions have indicated interest and done the necessary preamples within their associations.
“The proposal and application is with the ministry, that application is being processed and there’s no finality that it will not be a registered labour Centre. So we are discussing with NUPENG and all the other affiliates who said they are residing with the proposed ULC. So we held very fruitful deliberations yesterday and today, and in that meeting all the prerequisite for social dialogue and collective bargaining machineries were established,” Ngige stressed.
In his remarks, Joe Ajaero, ULC President who confirmed the suspension of the industrial action, who was accompanied by other ULC National Executive Council members including Theophilus Ndubuaku, ULC Trustee and Secretary General of Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI), applauded all Nigerian workers who were “willingness to join us if the action had continued despite not being our affiliate.”
He noted that the “appeal that we should suspend the action for discussion to continue by next week, the ULC had looked at it and further appeal by the DSS who had taken cognizance of the security nature of the sectors that are involved.
“Haven looked at all these two factors, the ULC would be getting across to the field for a suspension of the action to enable further deliberations of the remaining issues to commence next week,” Ajaero who doubles as General Secretary of National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) said.
Ajaero who described the meeting with the DSS as ‘fruitful’, expressed optimism that “it may have facilitated the meeting with the Minister because the DSS are in the field and they know the unions that are taking action to develop the economy. I think they might have sent their security report.”
On the next lime of action if negotiation breakdown at enlarged meeting scheduled for Tuesday, 20th September, 2017, Ajaero said: “you are trying to preempt us but we want to come with an open heart, in fact holding this meeting is one, and I’ve told you the three conditions like the issue of putting us into the Committee that is negotiating the minimum wage was quickly addressed even before the strike.
“An like he (Minister) mentioned to you, issue of ASUU has naturally been taken care of because ASUU called off the strike and they have shown good faith that the factory inspectors will quickly be mobilized. You can see that its just about four or five issues that we are going to deal with by next week.”
He assured that the ULC will as a matter of urgency deploy its internal mechanism through all its affiliates to ensure that necessary actions are taken for compliance with the suspension of the nationwide strike.
“It is the internal mechanism of the unions when they meet next week with the organizations like this, w edisnt call off strike before this meeting. Haven talked, its now left for us to go back and talk to our people.
“There are some sectors that their effects would have start taking effects from tomorrow; sectors like Aviation by today, they should have exhausted all their aviation fuel and whatever. As at yesterday, that of railway, out of the 20 trains that they have, only one moved yesterday, you can ask people in Kano. That’s how our sectors pick-up.
“The issue is that we met yesterday, we met again today, so we can’t be suspending before the meeting. We have held meetings we have extracted understanding and agreements that led to the adjournment of the meeting till next week. The next week meeting is not the first meeting that will determine suspension or whatever and when something is suspended, it can be called-off any moment. I want to bet you, that if we continue with this action till next week, not even ourselves will be able to come here. The environment whether by air, land or by whatever means of fuel movement, light will not be there. That is why we say status quo remains until we will be able to proceed,” Ajaero explained.
On his part, Igwe Achese, ULC Deputy President who applauded the proactiveness of the Minister of Labour and Employment towards averting the industrial action, admitted that dialogue will help in addressing various demands of the ULC.
“We need to have dialogue to address the issues. We believe that in no sooner time, the request of ULC will be granted while we go looking into other issues that affect our workers,” Igwe who doubles as President of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) noted.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja