The Workers’ Rights Campaign (WRC), a group affiliated with the Socialist Workers League, has criticised the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) for calling off the nationwide strike that started on Thursday over the attack on the NLC president, Comrade Joe Agero, by security forces in Imo State.
In a statement issued on Friday and signed by its National Coordinator, Kelvin Ayemhenre, the WRC accused the labour unions of accepting false promises from the Nigerian government and neglecting the plight of the working people in Nigeria who have been suffering from the neo-liberal policies of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.
The WRC said that the brutalisation of Comrade Agero should not have been the sole trigger for the strike or its suspension, but rather the ongoing economic attacks that have worsened the lives and living conditions of the poor masses. These include the removal of the PMS “subsidy”, floating the naira against the dollar, a 40% increase in traffic, VAT on diesel and PMS, and the introduction of tuition fees in state-owned universities.
The WRC also pointed out that the demands presented by the labour unions during the strike were inadequate, as they failed to address the root causes of the assault. The group lamented that Governor Hope Uzodimma is still owing over 13 months’ salaries to Imo workers, a critical issue that did not receive the emphasis it deserved in the unions demands.
The WRC, however, commended the NLC and TUC for going on strike despite what it described as a “black market injunction of the National Industrial Court” aimed at preventing the labour unions from exercising their right to strike. The group also praised affiliates like Academic Staff Union of Universities, SSANU, NUEE, among others for standing in solidarity during this critical time.
The WRC stated, “It is both abnormal and concerning for the Nigerian justice system to issue such an order, and even more so for labour unions to allow it to hinder their fight for the interests of the working class in Nigeria. As we argued when NLC called off a would-have-been strike after President Bola Tinubu’s infamous inauguration speech, the trade unions should at no time surrender political initiative to illegitimate use of legality such as court orders. By going ahead with the strike, NLC and TUC have ensured the state’s accountability for the attack on the NLC president.”
The WRC urged the workers and the unions to resist neo-liberal policies that are making life unbearable for poor workers. The group said, “We have seen that NLC & TUC can once again lead strikes at short notice even in the face of court injunctions. Such demonstration of workers power should now be deployed to win: A new minimum wage of N200,000 & a sliding scale of wages to inflation forthwith.”