By Victor Ahiuma-Young
INDICATIONS emerged yesterday that United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, had made good its threat to begin a nationwide strike from yesterday with a commencement of a gradual shut down of the critical sectors of the nation’s economy ahead of total shut down from Monday.
Leaders of ULC, equally insisted that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who allegedly described the group as illegal was being economical with words and were not ready to join issues with him because “action speaks louder than voice.”
This came as Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, described ULC and its members as fake saying “these fake Unions had not been registered, and would not be registered since all the areas have effective Union coverage presently that are affiliates of the NLC and TUC.
However, ULC said the comments by the NLC and TUC were none issues because they not only have freedom of speech as guaranteed by the nation’s constitution, but are also fighting for survival and personal ego.
It will be recalled that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige was yesterday quoted among other things, as describing ULC as illegal and planning to engage in economic sabotage by the planned nationwide.
Meantime, a member of ULC strike committee who spoke to Weekend Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said following the expiration of the final seven days notice yesterday coupled with the Labour Minister’s outburst among others, ULC had commenced the planned strike with a gradual shut down of the critical sectors of the economy its members control ahead of total shut down by Monday.
According to the source, this is to avoid damage to equipment that may not withstand sudden shut down since the essence of the industrial action was not to do major harm to the economy but to ensure that the group’s demands are met. Some of the critical sectors of economy which members of ULC control include Oil industry, Electricity sector, aviation, financial, transportation, and telecommunication
Also, addressing guests and delegates yesterday in Lagos at the opening ceremony of the 7th Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, NUBIFIE, an affiliate, of ULC, Joe Ajaero, President of the ULC, vowed that the industrial action would be total from Monday.
He contended that, “the Labour Minister was being economical with words because he knows the truth”, describing his comments as unfortunate.
According to him: “Just yesterday, this struggle became heightened. On the basis of our final decision to embark on a nationwide strike, Minister of Labour was quoted as calling us names. It was alleged that he called us illegal. Fellow comrades! Was that not very unfortunate of a sitting Minister holding such a dignified public office?
If ULC is illegal, does that not make APC, PDP and others illegal, as all have also been founded on the dictates of Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution? Nigerians should ask the Minister the section of the trade Union Act that registered the National Association of Resident Doctors which he negotiates with all the time.
“Anyway, ULC does not have any intentions of joining issues seriously with the honourable Minister or any other persons but the only thing we can tell them is that he should wait till when the Strike commences for action speaks louder than words.”