Why there were fewer strikes in 2016, by labour unions
•‘2017 won’t be business as usual’
Organised labour has offered reasons for its seeming docility to key government policies that begged for immediate reactions last year. Leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, argued that contrary to insinuations, labour had not been gagged.
According to the NLC chairman for Lagos State, Comarde Idowu Adelakan, who agreed that there were actually issues that warranted protests or rallies, pointed out that they could not the get the full support of members to execute such due to the economic realities in the country.
Recalling the price hike of petroleum products, he said: “We mobilised our members for a peaceful protest but they did not turn up. But as the hardship in the economy bites harder, members are now regretting their action.”
To the TUC president, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, the union’s silence was more of a solidarity move for the new government to settle down.His words: “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 seize the opportunity to hit the ground running.
“The truth is that our economic and infrastructural challenges are so daunting that they require concentration. This administration has really enjoyed the cooperation of Nigerians.”
He regretted that the government failed to honour agreements it entered into with the unions in the health, education and other sectors. Kaigama, however, warned that it would not be business as usual in 2017, saying: “For our patriotism, we have been labelled cowards, but there is no problem with that. Now, we expect government at all levels to put their acts together to avoid industrial crises this year.
The truth is, we are not going to close our eyes to job losses, non-payment of salaries and allowances, among others.”ASSIBIFI’s national president, Mrs. Olasanoye Oyinkan, said the huge job decimation in the banks last year notwithstanding, her union shunned protests because the lay-offs followed due process.
She added: “Our silence is because going on strike or picketing would not be a good way out for the banking sector because the industry is a very sensitive one. So, if our members had gone picketing, it would have really caused huge losses for the Nigerian economy.”