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Subsidy removal: NLC, TUC suspend strike as FG agrees to increase workers pay

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.To meet again on June 19 for further discussion
.Court stops organized labour from going on strike
.As TUC demands N200,000 as minimum wage
.Health workers suspend industrial action
.Kaduna, Kwara Govs meet labour leaders

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By AKOR SYLVESTER,-Abuja and  Gbenga Olarinoye, Ilorin


The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has called off the nationwide strike scheduled to commence on Wednesday, June 7.

The NLC and TUC announced the call off of the strike in a joint statement with the Federal Government in Abuja late Monday.

They said the strike was being called off to allow for more consultations.
This followed a successful negotiation between the organised labour and representatives of the Federal Government at a meeting in Abuja on Monday.

The statement was signed by Comrade Joe Ajaero, NLC President, Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja , General Secretary, NLC, Engr Festus Osifo and Comrade Nuhu Toro, President and General Secretary of TUC respectively.

The Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ms Kachollom S. Daju and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila signed the joint statement on behalf of the Federal Government.

Their decision to call of the strike followed a successful negotiation with the Federal Government on the need to increase workers salary and repair the nation’s moribund four refineries as a result of the removal of the fuel subsidy.

The labour centres, however, said that they will continue to engage with the Federal Government and secure closure on all the resolutions reached at the meeting.

The statement said the leaderships of the NLC and TUC will meet again on June 19 to agree on an implementation framework for the resolutions.

It would be recalled that the commencement of the strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) against the removal of fuel subsidy payment, the Federal Government, on Monday got a Restraining Order against Organised Labour.

The order given by Justice O.Y. Anuwe of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Abuja, was given following the filing of a suit (NICN/ABJ/158/2023) by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation against NLC and TUC.


The Judge restrained workers from embarking on the planned industrial action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.


The Motion on Notice was fixed for hearing on June 19, 2023.


This happened as the Trade Union Congress, TUC, of Nigeria has demanded an increase in the national minimum wage from N30,000 to N200,000.


Daily Champion learnt that the call for pay rise was among the TUC’s demands already forwarded to the government at Sunday’s meeting held at the Presidential Villa.


A list of the demands is contained in a joint statement signed by Comrade Festus Osifo, President TUC and Comrade Nuhu Abba Toro, Secretary General, respectively, which was also made available to newsmen on Monday.


TUC also asked the government to revert to the old fuel pump prices of N195 per litre while negotiations continue.


“The minimum wage should be increased from the current N30,000 to N200,000 before the end of June 2023, with consequential adjustments to the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), like feeding, transport and housing”, TUC stated.


The union said a representative of state Governors would be party to this new minimum wage and all the Governors must commit to implementing the new wage.


It also wants a tax holiday for employees both in government and private sector that earn less than N200,000 or 500USD monthly, whichever is higher.


“We want PMS allowance to be introduced for those earning between N200,000 to N500,000 or 500 USD to 1,200 USD, whichever is higher.


“The exchange rate for retailing PMS in the country must be kept within a limit of plus or minus two per cent for the next 10 years. Where the fluctuation is more than two per cent, the minimum wage will automatically increase at the same rate.


“Setting up an intervention fund where the government will be paying N10 per liter on all locally consumed PMS. The primary purpose of this fund is to solve perennial and protracted national issues in education, health and housing. A governance structure that will include labour, civil society and government will be put in place to manage the implementation.


“The Federal Government should provide mass transit vehicles for all categories of the populace.


“State governments should immediately set up a subsidized transportation system to reduce the pressure on workers and students. The framework around this will be worked out.


“Immediate review of the National Health Insurance Scheme to cover more Nigerians and prevent out-of-stock drugs.


“Visitation of the refineries that are currently undergoing rehabilitation to ascertain the state of work and set up a timeline for its completion.


“The president should direct whoever will be labour minister to immediately constitute the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC). This platform will be used by the government, labour, and employers to discuss issues and policies of the government that may affect workers and all other mandates as specified in the law.


“Provision of subsidy directly for food items, the 800 million dollars could be a first step.


“The existing National Housing Fund (NHF) should be made accessible to genuine workers; the framework on this must be discussed and agreed upon.


“Medium Term, Deployment of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) across the country in line with the earlier promise made by the government. The framework and timeline will be developed as agreed upon by both parties.


“Labour and government to design a framework that will be geared towards the reduction of the cost of governance by 15 per cent in 2024 and 30 per cent by 2025.


“A framework should be immediately put in place to maintain the road and expand the rail networks across the country. The government must design a framework for social housing policy for workers through the rent-to-own system,” among other demands.


Meanwhile, as part of efforts to avert a nationwide strike planned by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC from Wednesday, the Federal Government on Monday met with the leadership of the Congress at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.


NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, led the Labour team to the meeting, which started about 5:51 pm.


The government delegation at the meeting include former Edo Governor and Senator-elect, Adams Oshiomhole; the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of NNPCL, Mele Kyari; the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila; Hon. James Faleke, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Kachollom Daju, among others.


NLC leadership had met with the government team last Wednesday but the meeting ended in deadlock and was rescheduled for Sunday.


But the NLC shunned the Sunday’s meeting, alleging that it was ambushed by the government with the announcement of a new price template by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).


The Congress, therefore, asked the government to revert to the old pump price for meaningful negotiation to take place.


But the leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) honoured the invitation where it presented to the representatives of President Bola Tinubu, a list of demands to be met following the removal of petroleum subsidy.


After the session at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Sunday night, both parties agreed to meet again on Tuesday (today) to give time to the President to consider the demands.


Spokesman on the President’s side, Dele Alake, told correspondents after the meeting that the session was constructive.


He affirmed that the demands put forward by the TUC were not impracticable but added that the president needed time to consider them.

.Health workers suspend industrial action

Meanwhile, The Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) has suspended its strike embarked upon to press home its demand.


National Vice President of the union, Obinna Ogbonna, confirmed the development to newsmen in Abuja on Monday evening.


Ogbonna said the strike had been suspended due to the progress made during the engagement with the president.


He said the health workers “called a meeting shortly after meeting with the president and decided to call off the strike and gave a 21-day timeline to the government.”


“We met with Mr President at the villa earlier today, and he pleaded with the striking health workers to give him the benefit of the doubt that he will resolve the matters amicable to our own benefit and positive results,” Mr Ogbonna  said.


“The congress considered his plea and also said we should give a 21-day timeline to assess progress and commitment of state actors in resolving the issues,” he added.


President Tinubu earlier urged JOHESU to call off the strike and allow its members to return to work.


.Kaduna, Kwara Govs meet labour leaders

Kaduna State Governor, Sen. Uba Sani, on Monday met with leaders of the organized labour in the state to avert the planned strike action over fuel subsidy removal.


The governor told newsmen after the meeting in Kaduna that the engagement was to fashion out ways to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government.


According to him, the fuel subsidy is a scam benefitting only a few individuals and its removal will in the long run be of immense benefits to Nigerians.


He said that the Federal Government led by President Bola Tinubu had no option but to remove the subsidy, which was not provided for in the 2023 budget.


“It will be hard at the beginning, but the people will smile at the end,” he added.


The governor said that the meeting with the labour leaders was to look at possible means to alleviate the situation.


“I know what the people are facing and as leaders it is our responsibility to come up with important and robust palliative arrangements.


“We cannot do that without the support of the labour leaders, they are close to the people and they know their concerns,” he said.


The governor said a committee will be set up to ensure amicable resolution of issues thrown up by the fuel subsidy removal.


Uba Sani said he would also continue to engage the people and labour unions on any contentious issue.


“I have no doubt in my mind that Kaduna state is not going to experience any protest; our problem is very peculiar, we will not seat and look at what other states are doing,


“We are going to address our issues together with the labour leaders and by the grace of God, we will have that support. There is not going to be any strike in the state,” he added.


The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting was attended by leaders of the NLC, TUC, IPMAN and NURTW.


The state Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Suleiman said that the engagement started on a good note and discussed ways to reduce the effect of the subsidy removal


“We are not in any way representing the national body, rather the citizens of Kaduna state,” he added.


The NLC chairman believed that the governor, as a comrade, has great concern for the downtrodden.


Also, Abdullahi Danfulani, the Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC), appreciated the governor for calling the meeting.


He said that the unions would look at effects the subsidy removal would have on members and the general public, hoping that the government will aalleviate its negative effect on the people.


On his part, Sadiq Yusuf, Secretary General of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) in the state, said the meeting will create an understanding between government and the marketers.


He said it was important for a volatile state like Kaduna not to take part in the planned protest, adding that the association supports the removal of the subsidy.


Yusuf said money saved from the removal of the fuel subsidy should be channelled to setting up more refineries, schools and research centres.


He also advised governments at all levels to provide palliative to minimise the effects of the subsidy removal.

  • reduces workdays to three for public servants

Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Monday met with top labour leaders in the state, appealing to them that the recent removal of fuel subsidy had been done in good faith to curb further damage to the economy.


That comes as the Governor approved immediate reduction of workdays for the workforce in the state to lessen the impact of the subsidy removal on their earnings.


Civil servants will now work for three days in Kwara State, as against the current five days. Civil service authorities are expected to release further guidance on the measure, including how it affects health workers and teachers.


“Removal of subsidy is definitely a painful decision that the government had to take in the larger interest of the country. It is the cheapest and most sustainable option available to curb criminal bleeding of the resources at the expense of the larger public,” according to an excerpt of the Governor’s address to the Labour leaders.


“Subsidy regime means Nigeria is running a deficit budget that continues to hurt economic growth and make people poorer. The country was having to borrow to feed a tiny few, while important things like infrastructural development, industrial growth, job creation receive lesser resources.


“Now that subsidy has been removed as there is no provision for it in the budget anymore, the government is open to veritable ideas from the labour unions on how to redirect the savings for maximum public benefit, including pay rise.


“Mr. President and all of us (Governors) really acknowledge the short-term pains that come with the development, but we are committed to making sure that the interest of the workers and the Nigerian people is protected.”


The meeting was attended by the NLC Chairman Comrade Muritala Saheed Olayinka; State TUC Chairman Comrade Joseph Tunde Meshach; Chairman Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Kwara state chapter Dr. Ola Ahmad; Chairman National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners

Association (NAGGMDP) Dr. Yusuf Amuda; Vice Chairman National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Products Workers (NUPPPPROW) Comrade Mrs. Medinat Jimoh; as well as the representatives of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE); among others. They were led to the meeting by the Head of Service Mrs Susan Modupe Oluwole.


State NLC Chairman, Comrade Muritala Saheed Olayinka, said the call for such a meeting shows good leadership on the part of the Governor.


He agreed with AbdulRazaq that dialogue is better than strike action at this time, urging the Governor to use his good office as NGF Chairman to intervene in the national issue for amicable resolutions.


“As said by you, we know there is a little misunderstanding between leadership of NLC and the representatives of the federal government. We have discussed it holistically within ourselves at the state level that when a negotiation is ongoing, it doesn’t call for strike demonstration,” he said.


State TUC Chairman, Comrade Joseph Tunde Meshach, said engagement and dialogue are the best options to resolve the issues.


He appealed to the government to be sincere as they go about the discussion of a new minimum wage for workers and palliatives for the poor masses.


. Ebonyi workers beg NLC to sue for dialogue, save economy

Civil servants in the employ of the Ebonyi Government have appealed to the leadership of the organised labour to dialogue with the Federal Government in resolving the dispute arising from petrol subsidy removal.


A cross-section of the workers, who spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said that dialogue would yield better results than confrontation.


According to the respondents, strike by workers at a time the country’s economy was in turmoil would exacerbate the already distressed economy.


They noted that dialogue was the best way to get the government to listen to the demands of the workers and urged labour to shelve the proposed nationwide indefinite strike in the interest of the nation’s economy.


Mr Clement Ofoke, a member of staff in the Ministry of Works and Housing, appealed to the national leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and its counterparts in the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to seek dialogue with the federal government.


“Strike will put the nation’s economy in lockdown and it’s the masses like you and I will bear the brunt of any economic lockdown in the country.

“Presently, the ordinary citizen is finding it difficult to cope with the harsh economic situation caused by the recent jerk in petrol pump prices that resulted in the astronomical increase in prices of goods and services.

” So, any strike action now will make the situation even worst and the common man including civil servants will be the worst hit,” Ofoke said.

Mr Ephrain Onyibe another civil servant disagreed with the manner the fuel subsidy removal was announced by President Bola Tinubu but urged the organised labour to give the new administration a chance to fix the economy.


“It is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. Dialogue is the best approach to solving the current faceoff between labour and the Federal Government.


“The administration is still very young and I think that the best we can make as citizens is to support the administration to steer the country to economic greatness.


“Though the subsidy withdrawal has affected the socio-economic lives of the Nigerian citizens, especially the low-income earners, but, we all need to make some sacrifices to better the economy,” Onyibe said.


Mrs Veronica Onwe, a member of staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources urged the government to take necessary steps to avert the looming national strike saying that the labour strike was an ill wind.


“FG must listen to the demands of the organised labour and act fast to stave off the impending strike because the strike is an ill wind that blows no one any good.


“I don’t want the strike to hold because it will further plunge the economy into deeper distress, so, I’m appealing to the government to listen to the demand for labour,” Onwe said.


She  stated that the transportation fare and prices of essential goods and services had more than tripled since the federal government announced the end of the fuel subsidy regime on May 29.


“The least you can pay to a cyclist (Okada man) for a ‘drop’ ranges between N200 and N1000 as against N50 and N300 before subsidy removal,” she added.


The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Tinubu during his inaugural speech on May 29, announced the end of the fuel subsidy regime resulting in an instantaneous increase in the petrol pump price.


The organised labour in reaction urged the federal government to revert to the status quo and fixed Wednesday, June 7 to begin a nationwide indefinite strike should the the government failed to heed its demand



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