There are strong indications that the Federal Government is reconsidering its stand over the creation of another labour center in the country after the inauguration of the United Labour Congress (ULC), led by Comrade Joe Ajaero.
MMS Plus gathered that despite the celebrated inauguration of ULC in December 2016, it is yet to be registered with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. However, the leadership of the new labour centre had written to the Ministry seeking registration, which was attended to by a retired Director of Trade Union Services. The woman was said to have partially registered the union.
It was further gathered that the ULC can only be fully registered upon the approval of the union’s constitution by the Ministry.
To produce the constitution, ULC has to convene a National Executive Council (NEC) and a Special Delegate Conference (SDC) to ratify its constitution, which afterward will be transmitted to the Registrar of Trade Union in the Ministry of Labour and Employment for endorsement before the new labour union can be said to have met all the conditions for registration.
MMS Plus findings revealed however, that the ULC may not be registered after all as a result of high level meetings in different government quarters with the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba. These series of meeting are aimed at scuttling the registration exercise.
The new thinking among the top functionaries of the Federal Government and some top members of the ruling party, All Progressive Congress (APC) is that ULC could be a willing tool in the hands of the opposition, and so could be used to derail the government’s programmes. Comrade Ayuba and his management team were said to be working hard to ensure that the ULC registration is inconclusive.
To this end, about four affiliate unions that made up the 15 affiliate trade union members have been convinced to pull-out of ULC.
They include: The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employee (NUBIFE), Miners Association of Nigeria, National Union of Hotels and Personal Services Workers, Nigeria Welders and Fitters Association.
Earlier, Comrade Ajaero had said that ULC, as a new labour centre, had more than the required number of affiliate trade unions to get registration, adding that more than 12 Unions pulled-out of the NLC to join the new movement, as substantial number of unions equally left the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to join the ULC, in addition to some unions that had no affiliation to either NLC or TUC before.
Ajaero, who was the General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees and former Deputy President of the NLC, led the President of the President of the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Igwe Achese, and other unions to launch a new labour union, after the protracted crisis that followed the NLC delegate conference, which has defied amicable settlement.
He said that the ideology of the new ULC is to put the workers at the centre of their activities. “The workers first, which means if the worker is hungry, it will affect us, if he does not have any salary increase, if will affect us. First and foremost, there is no other thing that is bringing us to this business if not the workers. So, that is the ideology, that is what will drive us and we would resist neo-liberalism because it has killed jobs in Nigeria, it has killed a lot of people. When jobs are killed, people die.”
Meanwhile, it is feared within the labour circle that the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria(MWUN) may be factionalized into two distinct groups after the forthcoming National Delegate Conference as obtainable in the NLC that led to the formation of the ULC.
Some workers have continued to write petition against the perceived injustice in the forthcoming delegate conference, prompting invitation of the leadership of the union by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment as well as the NLC.
In a related development, the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria has appealed to the Federal Government to grant one-month moratorium to car importers before the implementation of the ban on car imports through land borders.
The President General of the union, Comrade Tony Nted, while speaking in Lagos , last week , said many importers had their vehicles trapped in neighbouring countries due to the policy.
Although he commended the government for the ban, saying it would increase cargo traffic at the seaports and create jobs, he said the one-month grace period was necessary to avert losses that could wreck the business of affected importers.
He added, “Out of 100 cars coming in through the neighbouring country, 50 are cleared while the remaining 50 come in through the back door. And the government is losing revenue; the workers and companies at the ports are also losing revenue. If all these vehicles are allowed to be cleared through the seaports, by paying statutory charges, the workers will have work to do.”
According to him, the inability of the importers to clear the vehicles through the land border will make them lose their business capital.
“The union would like to appeal to the Federal Government to give a month grace to importers whose vehicles are trapped because of the policy to clear their vehicles. After one month, the government should commence full implementation of the policy,” Nted said.
He said, “This will enable those whose cars are trapped in the border to clear their cars. We are in recession and nobody wants to lose money. After one month, the government can enforce the ban so that the cars will come in through the ports.
“In the same vein, we appeal to the Federal Government to have a stakeholders’ meeting with assembly plants and indigenous auto-manufacturing companies to identify and address the challenges of manufacturing of cars.”
The MWUN president expressed disappointment over abandoned access roads to the ports, which had caused many fatal accidents and had not been rehabilitated despite the promises by the government.
He said, “As we speak, the roads have become a death trap to every road user despite strong assurances from the Federal Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority that its contract had been awarded. There is nothing on the ground to show that the contract has been awarded.”
He noted the difficulty importers and manufacturers encountered in accessing forex had had a ripple effect on jobs because some factories had shut down while some shipping companies had relocated to neighbouring countries.