INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: The Nigeria Labor Congress Mobilizes Against

Published: Fri 20 Aug 2004 12:05 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
201205Z Aug 04
UNCLAS ABUJA 001442
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PINR KDEM ECON NI
SUBJECT: THE NIGERIA LABOR CONGRESS MOBILIZES AGAINST
THE LABOR BILL
REF: LAGOS 1303
1. Summary. The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) has
unveiled its plan to stop the passage of a trade union
reform bill now before the national assembly. Proposed
by the Presidency, the bill seeks to end the NLC's
monopoly as the only recognized labor federation in
Nigeria, stop automatic dues payments, and make public
education and hospital strikes illegal. End Summary.
2. The National Executive Council of the NLC met in
Abuja on August 16 to plan its strategy to counter the
GON's proposed labor reform bill (reftel), which the
NLC alleged is designed to weaken the trade union
movement. It announced that it would hold a series of
mass rallies to mobilize popular support against the
bill and persuade the National Assembly to reject it.
NLC President Adams Oshiomhole told journalists in
Abuja that a nationwide rally will be held in Abuja on
August 24, then in all the 36 states. Oshiomhole said
labor leaders from all the industrial unions will
participate in a "grand rally" at the National Assembly
on August 24 to persuade the lawmakers to reject the
bill. "We will go to the National Assembly and put our
case across in a peaceful manner. This rally is not a
strike," Oshiomhole explained. He said NLC's state
councils will organize similar rallies and meet with
lawmakers and other stakeholders to seek their support.
3. The labor bill was presented by the Presidency to
the National Assembly in June, and it seeks to promote
multiple labor federations, rather than the present
structure that recognizes the Nigeria Labor Congress as
the sole labor federation in Nigeria. The bill also
seeks to amend the Trade Dispute Act to make employee
payment of dues to trade unions voluntary and outlaw
strikes in public education and health sectors. Also,
trade unions will no longer legally call strikes
without a two-thirds vote in favor by union members.
On August 12, the labor bill was formally read on the
floor of the Senate, starting deliberation on it.
4. If the bill passes at the National Assembly, the
NLC will no longer be the only labor federation in
Nigeria. Membership of trade unions will become
voluntary, and employers will no longer deduct union
dues from employees without their permission.
5. NLC spokesmen have stated on several occasions that
the NLC is not opposed to a reform of the labor law,
but it insists that such a reform should be the product
of tripartite discussions involving all stakeholders:
the NLC, the GON, and employers. The NLC claims the
bill is vindictive, and merely designed to punish it,
or weaken its opposition to some of the GON's economic
policies, especially fuel price deregulation. The GON
argues that the reforms are in line with the
International Labor Organization's (ILO)
recommendations, while the NLC replies that the
proposed bill violates numerous sections of the ILO
standards.
6. Comment. The NLC's support for labor reform may be
too little, too late. When the NLC called a national
strike in June, it fizzled after two days, without
accomplishing its stated objective of blocking fuel
deregulation. It may be difficult to motivate the
Nigerian public, most of whom live hand-to-mouth, that
the NLC's monopoly is essential, and it is not unlikely
that the National Assembly, dominated by the ruling
People's Democratic Party (PDP), will pass the bill
into law. From all indications, the weeks ahead will
be critical to the continued survival of the NLC. End
Comment.
BROWNE
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