Anxieties Over Labour’s Proposed Strike for Wednesday

Anxieties Over Labour’s Proposed Strike for Wednesday

“Not again!” That was the summary of reactions of some Nigerians on Saturday when news that the organised labour would be going on yet another national strike over the attack on the Nigeria’s Labour Congress (NLC) President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, who was attacked and wounded during a protest in Imo state on Wednesday. The labour

“Not again!” That was the summary of reactions of some Nigerians on Saturday when news that the organised labour would be going on yet another national strike over the attack on the Nigeria’s Labour Congress (NLC) President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, who was attacked and wounded during a protest in Imo state on Wednesday.

The labour leader and some of his comrades were given the beating of their lives on the streets of Owerri, the state capital by yet unknown persons. Comrade Ajaero was particularly affected. By the time he was released from what the police called protective custody, the number one labour leader looked like someone that just escaped from bees attack. His eyes and chicks looked puffed up- triple the normal size with blood shot eyes.

Outrage and condemnation followed the images that came out of Owerri, the state capital more so when news filtered out that Comrade Ajaero may need to travel abroad to seek medical care to confirm that the severe beating did not affect his brain and other internal organs.

The situation forced the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) on Friday to give the Federal Government a November 8 2023 strike notice over the attack on NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero and other union leaders in Imo State.

The unions, in a statement gave the government a six-point demand including the immediate removal of the Commissioner of Police, Imo State and Area Commander, among other officials, for their alleged complicity in the attack.

In addition, the unions also demanded the immediate arrest and prosecution of all those involved in the attack, as well as compensation for the victims.

The labour unions also demanded a public apology from the Imo State Government and the Inspector-General of Police, as well as a guarantee that such an attack would never happen again.

But the Nigeria Police Force, Imo state Command had a different version of what happened that Wednesday. According to Mr. Henry Okoye, spokesperson of the command, the NLC president had a heated argument with some individuals who resisted the picketing of the airport in the state.

Mr. Okoye said to prevent an attack on Comrade Ajaero, the police took the NLC president into protective custody at the state police headquarters.

The labour leaders have not denied the claim by Mr. Okoye that some local Union leaders felt Imo state should not be shut down by the visiting national Union leaders. They have also not said the NLC President was not put under protective custody by the Police.

While a good number of Nigerians spoken to by the Nigeria Democratic Report (NDR) agreed with the labour leaders that the demand by labour was legitimate, they wondered whether it was enough reason to throw a wedge in the nation’s political,social and economic wheel.

They wondered whether the Commissioner of Police, Imo state and the Area Commander were responsible for the sharp division that manifested itself before the take off of the aborted strike in the state, more so, when the employer- the state government and the employees in the state are saying they are not being owed?

But the Inspector General of Police Kayode Egbetokun said the Imo state Commissioner of Police would be redeployed from the state. He id not say whether this is in response to Labour’s demand. Usually, the Police often effected a change of guard of the commissioners in states where elections were to be held.

Would this be far reaching enough to prevent Labour from proceeding on its proposed strike action? Will the government be able to meet Labour’s other demands? Globally, National legislation frequently lays down a number of conditions that must be met by workers and their organizations before they can exercise the right to strike.

However, in view of the danger that such conditions may limit the freedom of workers and their organizations to organize their activities and formulate their programmes, they should not unduly prevent recourse to strikes in defence of the interests of workers. In this respect, the following conditions are often found in legislation: the exhaustion of conciliation or mediation procedures prior to calling a strike; the requirement to hold a strike ballot, and for a majority of the workers concerned to vote in favour of a strike, before it can be called; and
the obligation to give a period of notice prior to calling a strike.

In most industrialized countries, the right to strike is granted in principle to private-sector workers. Some countries, however, require that specific efforts toward settlement be made before a strike can be called, while other countries forbid purely political strikes or strikes by public employees.

Most strikes and threats of strikes are intended to inflict a cost on the employer for failing to agree to specific wages, benefits, or other conditions demanded by the union.

Strikes by Japanese unions are not intended to halt production for long periods of time; instead, they are seen as demonstrations of solidarity.

Occasionally, strikes have been politically motivated, and they sometimes have been directed against governments and their policies, as was the case with the Polish union Solidarity in the 1980s. Strikes not authorized by the central union body may be directed against the union leadership as well as the employer.

In other climes, the decision to call a strike does not come easily, because union workers risk a loss of income for long periods of time. They also risk the permanent loss of their jobs, especially when replacement workers hired to continue operations during the strike stay on as permanent employees.

In the United States, this strike-breaking tactic was seldom used on a large scale before the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike of 1981, when President Ronald Reagan ordered the hiring of permanent replacement controllers. Most federal, state, and municipal unions in the United States are, by law, denied the right to strike, and the air traffic controllers’ strike was thus illegal.

Laws administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) govern the replacement of workers who go on strike, permitting the permanent replacement of workers only when an economic strike is called during contract negotiations. In other words, employers cannot lawfully hire permanent replacement workers during a strike over unfair labour practices.

Nonetheless, the threat of job loss has created a sharp decline in the number and length of economic strikes in the United States. American unions have responded by devising new tactics that include selective strikes, which target the sites that will cause the company the greatest economic harm, and rolling strikes, which target a succession of employer sites, making it difficult for the employer to hire replacements because the strike’s location is always changing.

In Nigeria, the principle of “no work – no pay” have been used by government to check frequent strikes.The employer does not have to pay the employees during a strike.

The big question now is : will the labour leaders still go on strike should government acced to there demand? Like a federal civil servant in Abuja, Mr. Abdurasheed Musa, observed on Saturday, labour should engage some other strategies instead of shutting down the country all the time. He said Comrade Ajaero should add some new labour words to his lexicon.

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