The meeting held on Saturday between the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and the Nigerian Railway Workers’ Unions over the planned three-day warning strike has ended in a deadlock.
The unions had declared the three-day warning strike from Thursday, November 18 to 20 to demand better pay.
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A letter titled, “Notice and Directive to embark on 3- day warning strike nationwide,” dated November 12th was addressed to District Chairman/Secretary Nigeria Union of Railway workers and Senior Staff Association.
The letter read: “That all the district organs (DWCs) of the NUR and SSA should, as a matter of expedience, summon a general meeting of all the workers of their districts on Monday, 15th November 2021 at exactly 10.00 a.m prompt and, in unambiguous terms, notify the entire workers of the commencement of a 3-day warning strike beginning from midnight prior to Thursday, 18th through Saturday, 20th November 2021;
“That the DWCs of both the NUR and SSA should fuse up, resume, and function as their Districts’ Strike Action Committee prior to the commencement of the 3-day warning strike action and throughout the period of the strike and shall ensure full and total compliance of all the workers with the strike action as declared by the joint leadership of the two in-house unions.
“That the Chairmen and the Secretaries shall be solely responsible for the sitrep (situation report) of the days of the strike action and shall escalate same to the national secretariat of the union for its information and necessary action.
“That the strike activities, whichever way each district wants to implement it in form of programmes but must include fervent intercessory prayers for the success of the struggles, should be within the premises of the Corporation and must be essentially orderly, well-organized, and devoid of any destruction or violation of railway assets, our assets.
“That all the workers must comply and stay out of their offices but gather together behind their district union leaders to participate actively, peacefully, and consistently in the whole days of the strike without any fear or let.”
However, when the unions were invited for a meeting in Abuja, it was learnt that the Minister asked them to call off the strike before any talks could commence which they rejected.
General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR), Comrade Segun Esan, in a chat with our correspondent, confirmed that the strike would go ahead, saying the demand by the Minister was a mission impossible.
According to him, the unions cannot call off the strike without any tangible offer on the various demands by the unions.
He stated that there was no condition of service in Nigeria Railway.
He said while the present administration is reviving the railway sector transiting from narrow gauge to standard gauge, it has abandoned the workers who are to drive the ongoing transformation.
Esan decried what he called the “unfriendly and anti-workers posturing”, saying, “We have been on this struggle for about five to six years but what we have been told have been stories upon stories.”
He said the unions are open to further engagement but they are yet to be invited for any other meeting.
“The Minister was asking for something that was a mission impossible and we felt it would be too embarrassing on the collective sensibilities of the two trade unions to withdraw the earlier statements announcing the strike without any tangible or substantial commitment of his person and office to all our demands.
“So we felt it would be quite unreasonable for us to do that.
“The fact that he (Minister) left the meeting without the two parties involved, that is the unions and that on his own side reaching a truce or convergence, we felt that was anything less than calling the bluff and telling us to go on with the strike.”