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Cablegate: Unions Set Tentative Date for Strike to Protest

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

011729Z Sep 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001377

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DOE FOR DAS JBRODMAN AND CGAYE
TREASURY FOR ASEVERENS AND SRENANDER
DOC FOR KBURRESS
STATE PASS TRANSPORTATION MARAD
STATE PASS USAID FOR GWEYNAND AND SLAWAETZ
STATE PASS EX-IM FOR JRICHTER AND KVRANICH
STATE PASS OPIC FOR ZHAN AND JEDWARDS
STATE PASS TDA FOR NCABOT AND BTERNET

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EPET ELAB EPET KDEM PGOV NI
SUBJECT: UNIONS SET TENTATIVE DATE FOR STRIKE TO PROTEST
FUEL PRICE HIKE

REF: A) LAGOS 1350 B) LAGOS 1376

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Labor sector stakeholders are preparing a nation-
wide strike in protest of recent fuel price hikes. The date
for the strike, set tentatively for September 7, will be
affirmed at meetings scheduled for September 5. Nigerian
Labor Congress (NLC) officials expect the strike to last one
week; they plan to try to disrupt international flight
operations. The GON has not called for any further dialogue
since the announcement regarding the strike date. End
Summary.

Strike Date Tentatively Set for September 7
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On Wednesday, August 31, the NLC-led National
Executive Council (NEC) decided to strike in protest of a
recent hike in fuel prices from 50 to 65 naira per liter.
The start day for the strike is tentatively set for
September 7, but NLC plans to meet the Trade Union Congress
and other civil society organizations on September 5 to
finalize their decision. The NLC has led six national
strikes over the last couple of years which have led to fuel
price decreases. However, adherence to national strikes
called during the last year has petered out within a few
days.

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NLC Pessimistic Re: Government Intervention
---------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Denja Yakub, NLC Assistant General Secretary and
Deputy Head, was pessimistic about any chance for government
to intervene prior to the proposed start of the strike. He
believes intervention on the part of the Ministry of Labor
or the National Assembly will be impossible without the
direct fiat of the President.
He also told us the NLC plans to obstruct flights entering
or leaving the country during the strike. However, the
Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) are happy with airplane
fuel prices, which continue to hover between 65 and 75 naira
per liter.

Petroleum Union Says there is Potential for Reconciliation
--------------------------------------------- -------------

4. (SBU) The senior branch of the petroleum workers'
unions, PENGASSAN, provided a more optimistic perspective.
Bayo Owosile, Assistant General Secretary of PENGASSAN,
believes compromise is still possible, and the National
Assembly could call an emergency session to stave off a
strike. Owosile stated the Federal Government's failure to
follow the Mantu Committee's recommendations regarding
measures to alleviate the impact of fuel price hikes on the
population, triggered the strike. He notes government,
unions, and employers have all accepted the Mantu Committee
recommendations. Director of the Michael Imodou Institute
for Labor Studies, John Awoniyi, hopes to bring the Ministry
of Labor to the table soon to reexamine the Mantu
recommendations.

5. (SBU) The NLC has instructed their affiliates nation-
wide to send letters to employers informing them of the
intent to strike on September 7. The March Trade Union
Amendment Act, which made it illegal for labor to strike on
any issue except worker service conditions, will likely
frame the GON's reaction. The Act further forbids labor
from meeting with civil society, and allows police to jail
offenders. Press reports indicate recent protests over fuel
prices in Edo and Imo states have already turned violent,
with two people reportedly dead.
Comment
--------
6. (SBU) The NLC will certainly try to make its strike
stick; however, it has had lackluster success over the last
year in convincing the public to strike for more than a few
days. Most Nigerians are simply too financially pressed to
stay away from work any longer. The NLC may be reluctant to
push the population hard on the length of the strike. If
the GON and public perceive the NLC has tried and failed to
mobilize a long-term strike, the NLC risks further weakening
its power base.

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