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Cablegate: State of the Unions

VZCZCXRO4448
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #1237/01 2720632
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290632Z SEP 06
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7966
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 001237

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DOL FOR SUDHA HALEY
STATE FOR DRL GABRIELLA RIGG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PREL NI
SUBJECT: STATE OF THE UNIONS

REF: LAGOS 874

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) This is a summary of labor activities. On July 21
the Federal Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) with the National Public Service Negotiating Council,
agreeing to suspend and further negotiate the planned
retrenchment of 33,000 civil service employees. June
showcased strike threats in three different sectors:
electricity, energy, and telecommunications. More than two
weeks of complete disruption of landline telephone service
ended when the GON released funds to pay a portion of overdue
salaries for NATE members (reftel). On June 26, the National
Union of Electricity Employee's called off the threat of a
July 1 strike after Nigeria's privatization unit, the Bureau
for Public Enterprises (BPE) met with the Power Holding
Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to negotiate employment rights and
compensation in the wake of the July unbundling of PHCN into
18 separate companies. Also on June 26, the oil sector
senior staff union, PENGASSAN, settled a dispute with an oil
service company which had threatened to erupt in sympathy
strikes throughout the sector. Meanwhile, the National
Union of Air Transport Employees is quiet. Nigeria,s labor
umbrella organization, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is
preparing for upcoming elections. END SUMMARY.

--------------
Civil Servants
--------------

2. (SBU) On July 21 the Federal Government signed an MOU
with the National Public Service Negotiating Council (NPSNC),
suspending the government's retrenchment of 33,000 civil
service employees. The NPSNC, representing eight public
sector unions, threatened a 160,000 civil servant-wide
strike. Chris Uyot, Head of Industrial Relations at the
National Labour Congress (NLC), said the unions were not
against reform, but were incensed by the Federal Government's
lack of dialogue with unions throughout this process,
disregard for employee agreements, and perceived efforts to
replace older workers with unemployed youth. The Federal
Government's quick turn around, willingness to negotiate, and
apology for lack of 'oversight' in consulting the unions on
this issue surprised union leaders. The MOU calls for
negotiations to reduce the number of retrenchments, and
suspends any recently served retrenchment letters.

-----------------------------------
Electricity Strike Narrowly Averted
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) managed to
unbundle the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) into 18
separate entities on June 30 -- at least on paper -- without
inciting a nation-wide power sector strike. Absent
discussions regarding labor restructuring, the National Union
of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had threatened to strike July
1. Joe Ajaero, General Secretary of the NUEE, said the union
was in the dark regarding plans for PHCN's unbundling and
privatization, and had no notion of their plans for
restructuring of employment. However, a June 26 meeting
involving the BPE, PHCN, Senior Staff Association, and the
NUEE concluded while successor companies would have greater
autonomy, labor restructuring would not be concluded without
the NUEE's and Senior Staff Association's input.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
Energy: Labor Ministry Steps in to Thwart Oil Sector Strike
--------------------------------------------- --------------

4. (SBU) The Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity
helped mediate a resolution between Franks International Oil
Field Services Nigeria Limited, the Petroleum and Natural Gas
Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), and the
National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG)
on June 26. A dispute regarding expatriate worker quotas had
threatened to erupt in a sector-wide solidarity strike by
July 31. According to Dr. Fadakinte, PENGASSAN's General
Secretary, the expatriate-quota issue will be discussed,

SIPDIS
along with the possible reinstatement of several executive
union members.

-----------------------------------------
National Union of Air Transport Employees
-----------------------------------------

LAGOS 00001237 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) President Itua of the National Union of Air
Transport Employees (NUATE) told EconOff on June 29 while
NUATE has not had problems with international airline
companies, the Union has faced some resistance from Nigerian
companies not wanting employees to become unionized. While
Mr. Itua said a multi-sector strike might eventually be used
to allow employees to unionize, he gave little indication
that this was currently or seriously being discussed.

-----------------------
Nigeria Labour Congress
-----------------------

6. (SBU) Denja Yaqub, Assistant Secretary of Organisation to
the NLC, told EconOff aside from covering aforementioned
union disputes, the NLC's Organisation Department continues
to help casual laborers gain worker protection, permanent
status when employed over three months, and the ability to
unionize. Sectors commonly involved in hiring casual labor
are steel engineering, chemical industries/manufacturers,
construction, and some government. Yaqub commented that
certain industries in Nigeria have been decimated by
globalization and more competitive producers of goods such as
textiles. According to the NLC's head of Industrial
Relations, negotiating employment and job security in the
face of privatization has proved to be a challenge for unions
in affected industries. In recognition of this
worker-oriented problem, the NLC backs the Global Campaign on
Fair Trade and campaigns for debt cancellation. NLC contacts
repeatedly mentioned their interest in USG training/visitor
programs, and commented on the need for election
observing/monitoring and voter education.

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Striking appears to have become a Nigerian labor
union norm for forcing negotiations and gaining results,
particularly in the face of large-scale privatization of
ailing State industries. While strikes can be incredibly
disruptive, the Federal Government's quick turn around on the
civil servant retrenchment issue may indicate its desire to
improve public relations in the face of upcoming elections.
END COMMENT.
BROWNE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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