In a bold move that is set to send shockwaves throughout Imo State, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, has announced plans for a statewide strike set to commence on November 1st, ten days prior to the highly anticipated governorship election scheduled for November 11th.
Ajaero cited “egregious violations of the rights and privileges of workers” by the Imo State Government as the primary reason for this industrial action.
Governor Hope Uzodimma, who is seeking re-election for a second term, now faces a daunting challenge as the NLC, under Ajaero’s leadership, asserts its intentions to disrupt activities across the state in protest of alleged injustices faced by workers.
Critics, including some political analysts and representatives of the state government, have accused the NLC of using the strike as a political maneuver ahead of the upcoming election.
However, Ajaero, speaking to reporters in Abuja on Sunday, expressed indifference to these allegations, asserting that there was nothing wrong with utilizing a strike for political purposes.
Furthermore, Ajaero issued a stern warning to the Imo State Government, cautioning that the NLC would hold Governor Uzodimma accountable if any harm befell workers or trade union leaders during the lawful protests.
“All the threats we have received of violence against our persons are noted, but we will not be deterred,” Ajaero declared. “On the 1st of November, we begin this march to save the workers of Imo State from the grievous harm the government has subjected them to these past years.”
Ajaero revealed that repeated efforts to engage in constructive dialogue and reach amicable agreements with the Imo State Government have been unfruitful. According to him, Governor Uzodimma has consistently broken agreements and disregarded the rights of workers in the state.
“As a result, we are left with no choice but to embark on mass protests and industrial actions beginning on the 1st day of November, 2023, to demonstrate our outrage and stop the continuing violation of the rights and privileges of workers in the state,” he asserted.
The NLC president emphasized the importance of the protest, highlighting the government’s refusal to implement previous agreements, especially the accord reached on January 9th, 2021, between the government and Organized Labour.
Ajaero expressed his dismay over the unjust labeling of some workers as ‘ghost workers,’ resulting in approximately 11,000 hardworking individuals going unpaid for a staggering 20 months. He regarded this practice as a grave injustice.
Regarding the vandalization of the NLC State Secretariat, Ajaero condemned it as a blatant attack on the rights of workers and a violation of the sanctity of their representative body.
Among the grievances cited by the NLC president were the implementation of discriminatory pay, unsettled gratuity arrears, non-compliance with the National Minimum Wage, and other issues that have plagued the state’s workers.
The NLC called upon all stakeholders, including civil society organizations, to stand in solidarity with the workers of Imo State in the face of these alleged violations. Ajaero implored the Imo State Government to honor its obligations and recommit to respecting the rights and privileges of workers.
“As long as it refuses, we will continue on this course of action until we see the desired change. We are ready for industrial peace in the state, but the choice is entirely in the hands of the government of Imo State,” Ajaero concluded, while also alleging the government’s use of coercive forces against trade unions in the state.