Cablegate: Nigerian National Labour Congress Opposes

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

090933Z Nov 03



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) The latest stage in the recurring disputes between the
President and the National Labour Congress (NLC) was
President Olusegun Obasanjo's submission of a bill to the
National Assembly to revise laws governing trade unions. The
bill seeks to amend Nigeria's Trade Unions Act by recognizing
multiple trade unions centers and calling for voluntary union
membership. In addition, the bill removes a mandatory 10 per
cent dues check-off for trade union centers, giving unions
the option of financially supporting affiliate organizations
like the NLC.

2. (U) NLC Deputy President Joseph Akinlaja told ConGen's
Political/Labor Specialist that the NLC met on Friday,
October 31, and issued a communique which criticized the
Presidency for its attempt to weaken the organization.
Likewise, during a meeting with Anthony Jones, Country
Director for the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, NLC President
Adams Oshiomhole characterized GON efforts to dismantle the
current labor structure as a "civilian dictatorship" that has
led unions "to fight for their lives in a way they never had
under Abacha." Oshiomhole added that the NLC is considering
several strategies to defeat the proposed legislation,
including a plan to mobilize opposition to the bill through a
state-by-state campaign to ensure that its rank and file
understands the impact of the GON-proposed revisions.

3. (U) The NLC is also working to form alliances within the
National Assembly and is aggressively seeking support from
several key GON leaders, including representatives of the
Senate and House Committees on Labor and the Senate
President. Akinlaja told PolSpec that the two legislative
houses are quite supportive of labor's stance on a wide range
of issues and key leaders have committed themselves to
defeating the bill. However, the mood at Labor House (NLC
headquarters) is not as optimistic, according to Anthony
Jones, who is observing NLC meetings to develop a national
strategy. Jones told LabOff that following the failed
Stakeholders Forum that saw several government leaders
distance themselves from the NLC, the NLC leadership is
beginning to question whether its allies within government
will serve as visible advocates for labor despite pressure
from the Presidency.

4. (U) Although the NLC remains optimistic, it has begun
considering its legal options should the bill pass. While
the NLC is not considering strike as an option to contest
Obasanjo's recent efforts to reform labor laws, its leaders
argue that it has primarily used the right to strike as a
tool to force the GON to honor commitments it has already
made. They believe that a GON commitment to bargain in good
faith and constructively involve unions in promoting
worker-friendly policies would empower labor in other ways
and promote a more industrious process to resolve conflicts.

5. Comment. Union leaders are also seeking labor reform and
have become increasingly philosophical as they reassess their
role in improving the quality of life for Nigerian workers.
Their grievances are more procedural and focus on
establishing a sustainable process for implementing and
enforcing collective bargaining agreements. While unions are
pleased with the collective bargaining process in the private
sector, the GON has struggled to maintain productive
relationships with key labor leaders. The NLC leadership is
concerned that labor's power lies solely in its right to
strike, which has created an environment characterized by

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