TUC leaders met on Monday, but the meeting also failed to produce a resolution.Following President Bola Tinubu’s suspension of fuel subsidies on May 29,2023, the Federal Government and organized labor have been at odds.
In an effort to foster negotiations, the government formed a committee to investigate labor union demands for a 300 percent wage increase to help workers cope with the challenges posed by the deteriorating economic situation caused by the removal of the contentious fuel subsidy, among other things.
Though the committee was given a total of eight weeks to come up with a suitable plan for workers and Nigerians at large, the labour leaders insisted that the committee has continued to show a lack of commitment towards their shared goal.
An earlier move by the labour leaders to embark on strike was stopped by a court order obtained by the government.
Speaking earlier after the meeting with FG officials, the NLC Secretary-General, Emmanuel Ugboaja, hinted that the congress would consider the government’s appeal for a peaceful resolution.
But he was countered by the Deputy Vice-President of the NLC, Titus Amba, who said there was no new development following the national broadcast made by the President, Bola Tinubu, on Monday evening.
Tinubu had unveiled a N500bn palliative which he said would be shared to manufacturers, small businesses and farmers.
He also disclosed plans to increase salaries and acquire 3,000 CNG-powered mass transit buses for all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
However, the Assistant National Secretary of NLC, Mr Chris Onyeka, told The PUNCH that the protest was irreversible despite the appeal by the government.
“The planned nationwide protest is on, it is irreversible,” Onyeka told The PUNCH when asked if the organised labour would consider FG’s appeal to shelve the strike.
Similarly, the congress in a statement signed by Ajaero on Tuesday night asked Nigerians to ignore news about a possible suspension of its planned nationwide strike.
The terse statement which was posted on its official Twitter handle, @NLCheadquarters read, “Ignore fake rumors, NLC is never divided. We are one united and strong labour centre. The protest rally holds tomorrow(Wednesday) nationwide.”
Addressing journalists after the meeting of the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives, the TUC President, Festus Osifo, described the palliatives rolled out by the President as “grossly insufficient.”
Giving an update on the outcome of the meeting, he said, “About the protests, yes, they (FG) also appealed that we should shelve the protests. Our response was that we are going this evening to have a conversation around that. And you will hear from us at the end of that meeting.’’
Osifo, who addressed State House correspondents on behalf of the organised labour, maintained that the 3,000 buses were insufficient to serve the country.
“We think, for example, 3,000 bosses are not sufficient. By the time you divide 3000 by 37, you can see how many they can come up to. So, it’s not sufficient, grossly inadequate.
“Then, we also think that some of the measures put on the table are not far reaching. So, we are also going to demand for what we think will do so if we think 30,000 buses could do it; 40,000 buses could do it in the immediate. Yes, we’ll push it forward,’’ he added.
The labour leader noted that though the labour unions are pushing for the adoption of a minimum wage to match the economic realities of post-petrol subsidy, that goal appears far away due to the bureaucracies involved and the current absence of a subcommittee.
In the interim, the organised labour is pushing for wage awards which are implementable immediately.
He stated, “On our part, what we are demanding is wage award. So wage award, like for example, you’ve heard some states that have said, ‘we’re paying N40,000 minimum,’ so it’s more or less they are giving it. It is not the law. They are doing above the minimum wage.
“So for us we felt that the Federal Government could do, on their own, so much above the minimum wage, without much conversation, because the committee on the minimum wage has not been constituted. We want to be very clear on that. That committee has not been constituted.”