The Federal Government, on Thursday, asked the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, to shelve their plan to embark on a nationwide indefinite strike action on October 3. maintained that the proposed industrial action by the labour unions would amount to a gross violation of a subsisting court injunction.
It stressed that issues bordering on fuel subsidy removal, which informed the decision of the NLC and the TUC to declare the strike action, are already pending before the National Industrial Court.
According to FG, it was due to the willingness of the unions to enter into a negotiation over the issue that it was persuaded to withdraw a contempt proceeding that it initially instituted against them.
Therefore, the government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, wrote to the head of the legal team of the two unions, Femi Falana, SAN, urging him to persuade his clients to abort the planned strike action.
The letter, dated September 26, a copy of which Vanguard obtained, read: “The attention of the Ministry has been drawn to media reports on the proposed nationwide strike action by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) scheduled to commence on 3rd October 2023.
“You are kindly invited to recall the antecedence of previous steps/actions on this matter, particularly the exchange of correspondence between this office and your firm, before and after the nationwide “action/protest” declared by the NLC on 2nd August 2023.
“Whilst your clients had maintained that the nationwide protest by NLC is in furtherance of its constitutional right to embark on protests, the Ministry has repeatedly advised on the need to advise your clients to refrain from resorting to self-help and taking actions capable of undermining subsisting orders of a court of competent jurisdiction.
“It is also to be recalled that based on the conduct of the said nationwide action/protest, this Office instituted contempt proceedings against the labour leaders.
“However, upon the intervention of the President and National Assembly, coupled with the decision of the labour unions to discontinue their action/protest, the contempt proceedings were not prosecuted further.
“This was advisedly done to enable the government and labour union to engage in further negotiations without any form of encumbrances.
“However, in its Communique issued at the end of its National Executive Council meeting on 31st August 2023, NLC resolved to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from 31st August 2023.
“Also on 26th September 2023, the Presidents of NLC and TUC, jointly issued a communiqué stating that organised labour had resolved, ‘to embark on an indefinite and total shutdown of the nation beginning on zero hours Tuesday, the 3rd day of October, 2023.’
“From a review of the contents of the above communique and available media reports, the proposed strike action is premised principally in furtherance of issues connected with the removal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel price and consequential matters of making provisions for palliatives and workers welfare.
“These are undoubtedly issues that have been submitted to the National Industrial Court for adjudication.
“Therefore, the proposed strike action is in clear violation of the pending interim injunctive order granted on 5th June 2023 restraining both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress from embarking on any industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the pending Motion on Notice.
“We wish to reiterate that a court order, regardless of the opinion of any party on it, remains binding and enforceable until set aside.
“It is the expectation of the public that the labour unions would lead in obedience and observance of court orders and not in its breach.
“It is therefore the earnest expectation of this Office that your distinguished law firm will advise the labour unions on the need to protect the integrity of courts and observe the sanctity of court orders.
“Consequently, you are kindly requested to impress upon the organized labour unions to note the fact that their proposed strike action is in gross breach of the subsisting court order, as well as the appropriateness of addressing their grievances/demands within the ambit of the law.
“Hence, the need for them to be more accommodating and show greater appreciation of the effect of the order of the court, by shelving the strike action.
“The foregoing will afford parties more room for further mutual engagements, for a holistic and sustainable resolution of all outstanding issues on this matter in the overall national interest.”
Among those the letter was copied to, include; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chief Of Staff to the President, National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of State Security Services.
It will be recalled that the labour unions had vowed to enforce an indefinite nationwide strike action from October 3, following FG’s failure to address the economic hardship that Nigerians are currently facing owing to its unplanned removal of fuel subsidy.