Nationwide Shutdown: FG, Labour Reach Agreement, Averting Planned Strike - The Top Society

Nationwide Shutdown: FG, Labour Reach Agreement, Averting Planned Strike

Tinubu Approves Additional Relief Packages; NLC Calls Urgent NEC Meeting

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In a crucial turn of events, a high-level meeting between government officials and Labour representatives has successfully averted the planned nationwide workers’ strike, which was set to protest the removal of the petrol subsidy and its associated hardships.

The meeting, which took place yesterday after Labour initially declined a government invitation, concluded after four intense hours with significant concessions made by the Federal Government to alleviate the plight of Nigerian workers and citizens.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu addressed the nation on its 63rd Independence Anniversary, announcing gains for workers on the country’s 63rd Independence anniversary day.

The following agreements were reached during the meeting:

1. A provisional wage award of N35,000 for all categories of federal workers.

2. A six-month freezing of VAT payments on diesel.

3. Distribution of N25,000 to 15 million households for three months, covering the period from October to December. 

Leaders of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) agreed to these terms and promised to communicate them to their respective union bodies in preparation for another meeting with the government.

The unions had previously warned of an indefinite strike starting today to protest the economic hardships triggered by the removal of the petrol subsidy.

This pivotal meeting was chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, who clarified that the provisional wage increment initially announced by President Tinubu in his Independence Day broadcast had been raised to N35,000 following the discussions.

“There was a lot of chatter on Twitter about the issue of low-income workers only falling into the category of the wage bill. They spotted that and we communicated that to Mr. President and he quickly agreed that all categories of workers will be given the wage bill. There’s nothing like low-income, mid-income or high-income. I think that’s worthy of clarification tonight. 

“A lot of issues were addressed; issues that concern the Nigerian worker, the average Nigerian worker. I can’t begin to reel them out here. But I am happy to say that after four hours, we have reached certain agreements that are for the benefit of the Nigerian worker. 

“Agreements on wage bill, agreements on committees on salary increment, CNG buses, on several other things, I believe both TUC, NLC and government side? 

 ”Hopefully, we expect that Labour will call a meeting of their various branches and executive tomorrow to present the agreements that have been reached, and we pray and we believe and we hope that the strike will be called off on Tuesday. 

“So, I want to once again, thank Labour for taking time out on a good Sunday like this one when they should be with their families to come and discuss in the interest of the workers,” he said.

Following the meeting, Information and National Orientation Minister, Mohammed Idris, issued a statement offering additional insights into the agreements and resolutions achieved by both parties.

Idris said:

“The parties noted the following: The Federal Government has announced N25,000 only (later adjusted to N35,000) as provisional wage increment for all treasury-paid federal government workers for six months.

“The Federal Government is committed to fast-tracking the provision of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses to ease public transportation difficulties associated with the removal of PMS subsidy.

”The Federal Government commits to the provision of funds for micro and small-scale enterprises. VAT on diesel will be waived for the next six months.

“The Federal Government will commence payment of N75, 000 to 15 million households at N25, 000 per month, for a three-month period from October-December 2023.”

He further emphasized that after extensive deliberations during the meeting, they arrived at resolutions highlighting that the contentious issues can only be effectively addressed when workers are actively engaged in their duties rather than being on strike.

“Labour unions argued for higher wage award and the Federal Government team promised to present their  request to President Bola Tinubu for further consideration.

“A sub-committee to be constituted to work out the details of 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.

NLC President Joe Ajaero and the acting President of the TUC, Tommy Etim Okon, on the other hand, indicated that the determination to withdraw the strike plans would be contingent upon consultations with their respective organizational bodies.

Both leaders conveyed optimism that, in light of these consultations and the government’s commitments, a mutually acceptable resolution could be attained.

Last night, the NLC promptly convened an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting to assess the details of the agreement reached.

In an official statement, Congress General Secretary Emmanuel Ugboaja announced that members of the National Executive Council (NEC) will convene virtually at 11 am on Monday for their meeting.

NLC

Ajaero said: “I don’t have much to say than the Chief of Staff has said. We’ve been meeting and we’ve looked at almost all the issues, all the promissory notes from the government and we’ll look at how to translate them to reality and to be workable. Then, we’re going to take those promises to our organs, of course you know these people here cannot just wake up and review and call off action. 

“So, like he said, we’re hopeful that our organs will have a look at them and give us a fresh mandate on what next to do. So it’s a simple one,” Ajaero said.

TUC’s acting President, Okon, said: “Let me on behalf of the TUC also point out to the fact that we’ve had series of conversations surrounding the issue raised and we do hope that by tomorrow we are going to get across to our organs so that we can also look at it and cross-fertilise ideas and see the way forward. I’m sure we’re coming back again tomorrow for that.” 

Governor AbdulRazak AbdulRahman of Kwara State, who also serves as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), along with Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, took part in the meeting through virtual means. The meeting was presided over by Gbajabiamila.

Also in attendance were various ministers, including Wale Edun (Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy), Idris (Information and National Orientation), Simon Lalong (Labour and Employment), Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (State, Labour and Employment), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Budget and Economic Planning), Dr. Betta Edu (Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation), Doris Uzoka-Anite (Industry, Trade and Investment), Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan (Head of Service of the Federation), and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

On the labor side, the delegation was led by Ajaero, TUC Deputy Dr. Tommy Etim Okon, NLC General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, and TUC General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, among other representatives.

This accord between the government and Labour marks a substantial milestone in diffusing the tensions arising from the removal of the petrol subsidy. It also serves as a notable update regarding the potential nationwide labor strike, offering essential relief to workers and households across Nigeria.

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