Nigeria: organize labour last night suspended nation wide strike
By Zuleihat Owuiye, Mamos Nigeria
Organised Labour last night suspended its planned nationwide strike for one month following an agreement with the Federal Government. Though details of the Memorandum of Understanding suspending the strike, were sketchy at the time of this report, the agreement, Vanguard gathered, was reached very late at night.
The meeting was reconvened yesterday for both government and labour to find common ground and avert the planned strike by organized labour to force the government to address the suffering and pains of Nigerians, occasioned by the petrol subsidy removal.
Earlier yesterday, the National Executive Council, NEC, of NLC and its TUC’s counterpart, had met separately to review Sunday’s meeting with the Federal Government’s offers.
separate NEC meeting, leaders of NLC and TUC set up a committee to harmonise their resolutions to arrive at common ground.
According to the sources, the joint resolution of NLC and TUC was presented to the government team around 5 pm.
But the meeting did not reconvene until 8.15 pm when the government team returned to the chagrin of labour leaders who Vanguard gathered, almost left the venue in anger. Recall that President Bola Tinubu had on Sunday evening succumbed to the N35,000, provisional wage award demanded by labour after his initial N25,000 for the average low-grade worker to run for six months was rejected.
Instead, labour insisted that the wage award should be across the board and run till a new minimum wage expected to be negotiated next year is put in place.
A statement issued by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris explained that some of the resolutions reached at the Sunday meeting were that, “the issues in dispute can only be resolved when workers are at work and not when they are on strike.
“Labour unions argued for higher wage awards and the Federal Government Team promised to present Labour’s request to President Bola Tinubu for further consideration.
“A sub-committee to be constituted to work out the details of the implementation of all items for consideration regarding government interventions to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal.
“The lingering matter of Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Lagos State needs to be addressed urgently and Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who participated virtually, pledged to resolve the matter.
“NLC and TUC will consider the offers by the Federal Government with a view to suspending the planned strike to allow for further consultations on the implementation of the resolutions above”, the statement said.
Members of the organized labour team present are, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, the NLC General Secretary, Emma Ugbaja, the TUC Secretary General, Nuhu Toro among others.
On the government team are the National Security Adviser, NSA, Nuhu Ribadu, the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, and the Minister of State for Labour, Nkeiruka Onyejecha.
JAF lauds NLC, TUC’s doggedness
Meanwhile, the umbrella body for Pro-Labour civil society groups, the Joint Action Front, JAF, in a statement by its Chairperson and Secretary, Dr Dipo Fashina and Abiodun Aremu, respectively, commended the doggedness of the NLC and TUC.
According to the statement “We pledge the unwavering solidarity of the Joint Action Front (JAF) for the struggles of the labour movement against the anti-poor and neo-liberal attacks of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration particularly the withdrawal of fuel subsidy, hike in fuel prices, devaluation of the naira, hike in school fees and other attacks on living standards.
“We assure the NLC and TUC of the readiness of all workers and oppressed Nigerians to join the general strike to begin to demand a reversal of the fuel subsidy removal, hike in fuel prices and school fees of public educational institutions as well as all other policies of the administration that have made life miserable for the working class and poor.
“The current struggle is being framed by the corrupt capitalist ruling elite as simply about demands for palliatives. This is not true. This struggle is an ideological struggle against a neoliberal and capitalist policy of deregulation of the oil sector. We are well aware of a number of concessions being granted at the eleventh hour by a federal government that conveniently ignored labour over the past 21 days.
This includes a wage award of N35,000 across the board for federal workers as well as promised provision of CNG buses etc.
“So far, all of these concessions are promises, none have been implemented. Therefore, it would be a costly gamble for labour to suspend its strike on the basis of promises by a ruling elite that habitually fails to implement collective bargaining agreements with trade unions especially the ASUU-FGN 2009 agreement as well as the 2019 minimum wage agreement which is still not being paid in a number of states across the federation.
“As far as JAF is concerned, palliatives only address symptoms whereas the root of the crisis is where the solution lies.
Even if implemented, no matter the amount of wage awards granted so far the policy of fuel subsidy removal and fuel price hike subsist, Nigerian workers and the poor masses will continue to suffer.
Therefore we urge NLC and TUC to accept the concessions already won while at the same time going forward to demand that the wage award applies to all categories of workers in both public and private sectors, a complete reversal of the fuel price hike and the policy of subsidy removal as well as reversal of the criminal hike in school fees at universities and other tertiary institutions as the only minimum criteria before a suspension of the general strike can be considered.