• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Business community frowns at looming strike as labour’s ultimatum expires

Managing the fallout of economic reform: the need to come together

The business community issued a warning on Friday that the planned natonwide strike by organised labour over workers’ welfare is not favourable for the nation or the economy at this time.

The NLC gave the federal government a 21-day deadline to provide palliatives for Nigerians to ease the pain brought on by the removal of petrol subsidy. That deadline expired on Friday.

The Congress is calling for a revision of the minimum wage, tax exemptions, and benefits for public sector employees among other things.

As the ultimatum ended, there are fears that the organised labour unions may want to proceed on an indefinite strike. The unions are yet to make any public pronouncement about an indefinite strike.

But the business community is worried that any deliberate economic slowdown at this time would severely hurt the nation and the majority of its residents.

Segun Ajayi-Kadir, the director-general of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), said on Friday that a national strike now will make the current economic crisis worse, The Nation reported.

“Like we have always said, when the labour union goes on strike, the economy is negatively impacted,” Ajayi-Kadir said.

It is not government that suffers, but the masses, he said.

Ajayi expressed concerns that if the strike is accompanied by violent protests, it will have implications for maintenance of peace.

Read also: FG begs labour to shelve proposed strike

“Whichever way you look at it, I think strikes by the labour union even at the normal time will negatively affect the economy, not to mention now that our economy is going through a lot of challenges,” he said.

“You are aware that this administration is barely 100 days old and there are quite a number of policy initiatives the government has taken that are supposed to help the pace for economic reflation in the country.
Those policies need more time to develop before they can begin to have any fruitful results. To put the economy on the path of recovery and reflation, in my opinion, all hands should be on deck.

“A strike at this time is going to set back the process and may lead to further hardship for the people and the economy.”

He appealed to government and labour to resolve their differences on the issue, stressing: “I will particularly appeal to the labour union to consider other means of driving home their demands rather than grounding the economy because the most impacted will not be the government; it will be the people that they speak for.

“There is very high consumer apathy, very high cost of inputs. Even the movement of workers continue to be constrained due to the high cost of fuel and transportation especially.”

Adewale Oyerinde, the director-general of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), stated on TVC that the country cannot currently afford another strike due to the potential harm it may do to the financial stability and economy.
If organised labour follows through on its threat to go on an indefinite strike, especially if the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) join the action, stock market activities may also be suspended, according to stock market operator Peter Adebola.

“All stock market macroeconomic indicators would also go down. This is because the macroeconomic indicators that would influence the stocks would be negative,” he said.

The most recent meeting between labour and the federal administration had come to a standstill.
Following a meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima on Wednesday, Labour Minister Simon Lalong left with hope that the issue would be handled.

Read also: Strike: FG unfazed as labour ultimatum nears end

I don’t think there is any problem. We don’t have any fears about some of the things they (labour) put on the table, and also the suggestions and the package of the Federal Government,” he said.

“As for me, I don’t think there is any problem. We have fully spent time with the Nigerian labour, and the posture of the President too is towards the welfare and prosperity of workers.

“We have no doubt, and that’s why in many of our meetings with them, we did not end up boxing ourselves. We hope that the best is going to come.”