Nigerian union threatens general strike

Lagos – A breakaway faction of Nigeria’s main labour movement on Friday threatened to strike over pay and conditions, potentially paralysing activities from oil to aviation.

The head of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero, warned his members would have “no option than to begin a nationwide strike from Monday” if their demands were not met.

The ULC is a splinter group of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and comprises 12 unions representing staff in the oil and gas, telecoms, aviation, banking and electricity sectors.

Ajaero gave the government a deadline of Friday evening or risk a “total shutdown of the economy”, which has only just emerged from recession caused by the plunge in global oil prices.

The ULC’s demands include a new minimum wage of 56 000 naira ($156) per month instead of the current 18 000 naira and a review of the sale of the state-run power firm.

It also wants the withdrawal of army personnel from security duties at oil installations.

The government has said any strike would be illegal.

Labour minister Chris Ngige said: “To call a national strike without any major trade dispute with their direct employers will be tantamount to blatant violation of our extant labour laws and international labour standards.”

The federal government did not yet recognise the ULC, which was formed last year after a leadership dispute in the NLC, so it could not legally represent any other union, he added.

Nigeria has been rocked in recent months by a series of trade disputes involving state and federal university workers, and doctors in public hospitals.

Most of the walk-outs have been prompted by late or non-payment of salaries and allowances, and calls for improved conditions.

News24 Africa

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