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Breaking: Labour May Suspend Strike As FG Okays Allowance For Senior Staff

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The Federal Government on Sunday said the provisional wage increase announced by President Bola Tinubu for all low-income workers for six months would cut across all treasury-paid workers.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, revealed this to State House correspondents at the end of a four-hour marathon emergency meeting with the leaders of Organised Labour.

The compromise was reached to avert the proposed indefinite nationwide strike declared by the organized labor.

Following the development, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress were expected to suspend their planned strike slated to commence on Tuesday after discussing the resolutions with their state chapters and affiliates on Monday (Today).

The meeting came hours after the President in his Independence Day broadcast announced the approval of a N25,000 provisional wage increase for certain categories of federal workers for the next six months.

Briefing journalists on the meeting outcome, Gbajabiamila said, “There was a lot of chatter on Twitter about the issue of low-income workers only falling into the category of the provisional wage increase. And we did communicate with the President and he quickly did say and agreed that all categories of workers would be given the wage bill. There is nothing like low income, median income, or high income.” ⁣

He expressed optimism that the labor unions would backtrack on their planned strike.

“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,’’ he noted.⁣


However, The PUNCH gathered that labor leaders rejected Tinubu’s N25,000 provisional wage increment for low-grade workers. ⁣


They also rejected the government’s proposed six-month period the provisional increase covers and insisted that it should run until a new minimum wage is approved. ⁣


Unconfirmed sources at the meeting also said the unions insisted that the wage increase should be reviewed upwards to N35,000.


As a result, the Federal Government raised the wage award to N35,000. ⁣

But the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mallam Mohammed Idris, in a statement disclosed that the parties resolved that the issues in dispute could only be resolved when workers were at work and not when they were on strike.


The statement read, ‘’Labour unions argued for higher wage award and the Federal Government team promised to present Labour’s request to President Bola Tinubu for further consideration.


“A sub-committee (is) 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 the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria and National Union of Road Transport Workers 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 to suspend the planned strike to allow for further consultations on the implementation of the resolutions above.’’


He added, “The Federal Government is committed to fast-tracking the provision of Compressed Natural Gas 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 three months from October-December 2023.”


Speaking on behalf of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC President Joe Ajaero said the union would table the FG’s offer before its organs reach a resolution.


“We’ve looked at almost all the issues, all the promissory notes from the government and we’ll look at how to translate them into reality and workable.


“Then we’re going to take those promises to our organs. 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.


Turning to his comrades, he added, “Of course, you know these people here cannot just wake up and review and call off the (strike) action.”


Echoing Ajaero’s comments, Tommy Etim Okon, who spoke on behalf of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, said, “We’ve had series of conversations surrounding the issues raised and we do hope that by tomorrow (Monday), 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.”


The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Governor Abdulrazak Abdulrahman of Kwara State, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, participated virtually in the meeting chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila.


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


The labour delegation was led by the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, Deputy President, TUC, Dr Tommy Etim, NLC General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, TUC General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, and others.


The Sunday parley, which kicked off around 3pm was convened two days after a similar meeting failed to hold due to the refusal of the Labour leaders to show up for the parley.


The two main umbrella bodies for workers in the country NLC and TUC had announced an indefinite strike with effect from Tuesday to protest the alleged failure of the Federal Government to provide post-subsidy palliatives for workers and implement policies that could alleviate the sufferings of the masses after the removal of the fuel subsidy.


The unions had also directed their state chapters and affiliates to mobilise for the shutdown of critical facilities and infrastructure, including airports, seaports, electricity grids and fuel supply across the country.


However, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Lateef fagbemi, SAN, in a letter addressed to the counsel to the NLC and TUC, Femi Falana, SAN, reminded them about a subsisting injunction from the National Industrial Court restraining them from declaring a strike action.


Fagbemi said irrespective of their disposition on the matter, the court order must be obeyed unless it is vacated and advised Falana to advise the labour leaders to abide by the court judgment to protect its integrity.


But the unions waved off the FG’s objection as it continued mobilizing its various affiliates and branches for the strike which was expected to cripple economic and commercial activities across the country.


But in a bid to woo the labour unions, the President in his Sunday morning broadcast explained that the wage increase would be paid to low-grade workers for the next six months just as he acknowledged the sufferings of Nigerians since the scrapping of petrol subsidy on May 29.


He said it gave him no joy to watch citizens shoulder burdens that would have been shed a long time ago.


According to him, the decision followed negotiations with the labour unions and other stakeholders in the business community to increase the federal minimum wage without triggering undue inflation.


“For the next six months, the average low-grade worker shall receive an additional N25,000 per month,” Tinubu announced during his maiden Independence Day address to Nigerians.


He said the reforms were necessary to rid the system of the grip of those he called “a select and greedy few.”


“I am attuned to the hardships that have come. I have a heart that feels and eyes that see. I wish to explain to you why we must endure this trying moment.


“Reform may be painful, but it is what greatness and the future require. We now carry the costs of reaching a future Nigeria where the abundance and fruits of the nation are fairly shared among all, not hoarded by a select and greedy few. A Nigeria where hunger, poverty and hardship are pushed into the shadows of an ever-fading past.


“There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago. I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future,” he explained.


The President affirmed that his government is doing all that it can to ease the load.


He then outlined the path his administration was taking to relieve the stress on families and households, saying, “We have embarked on several public sector reforms to stabilise the economy, direct fiscal and monetary policy to fight inflation, encourage production, ensure the security of lives and property and lend more support to the poor and the vulnerable.”


He added that “Based on our talks with labour, business and other stakeholders, we are introducing a provisional wage increment to enhance the federal minimum wage without causing undue inflation.”


Affiliates ready


Meanwhile, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities has said it will join the proposed strike declared by the NLC and TUC.


SSANU in a communique issued at the end of the 45th regular National Executive Council held at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State and made available to The PUNCH on Sunday, read, “NEC-in-session after due deliberations agreed that SSANU as an affiliate of the NLC will join the strike to protest the insensitivity of Government in providing palliatives to cushion the effect of removal of fuel subsidy.


‘’NEC, therefore, mandated all branches to mobilise her members to join the strike as declared as the demands before the Government also includes the release of withheld salaries of university workers.”


The communique, signed by SSANU national president, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, complained that it felt seriously agitated by the report of the Ad hoc Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-Owned Universities, which among other things recommended that State universities should not participate in nationwide industrial actions.


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SSANU also called for the payment of its withheld four months’ salaries during a nationwide strike and the implementation of 23 per cent and 35 per cent salary review approved by a committee headed formerly by late Professor Nimi Briggs.


Also, the National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview with one of our correspondents, explained that ASUU being an affiliate of NLC would always support and participate in any decision taken by the congress.


He said, “We are waiting for the NLC to give us feedback from the ongoing meeting. We have earlier written to our members to participate in the strike and as you know, we are an affiliate of NLC, so we always participate in everything they do.”


Also, the Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said there was huge expectation from manufacturers and the organised private sector with regard to fruitful deliberations between the Federal Government and the labour unions.


According to him, the planned industrial action by labour unions will significantly hurt the economy and exacerbate the hardship faced by many businesses.


Ajayi-Kadir said, “I think it is evident to everyone that we are looking forward to a productive outcome. I’m not certain that all the issues will be resolved realistically anytime soon, but they can do that through continuous conversation.


“What one expects is that government should be able to give reasonable assurances to labour. Labour should also understand the situation the government finds itself. Grounding the economy and virtually putting a stop to daily business activities is not in the best interest of the economy and the country at this time.”


Meanwhile, in compliance with the directive of their leaders, the state branches of the NLC and TUC have mobilised their members to down tools on Tuesday as part of strategies to put the FG under pressure to meet workers’ demands.


The Sokoto State chapter of the NLC said its members were ready to embark on strike as directed by the national headquarters of the union.


The state secretary of the labor union, Hamisu Hussaini, said the workers in the state had been mobilized for the action.


“We have informed all our affiliates across the state to get set for the action in addition to the monitoring team set up by the union to go round and monitor events in all the offices across the state,” he stated.


Also, the unions in Zamfara State disclosed that they were ready to ensure the success of the strike in the state.


Speaking after a joint State Executive Council meeting of the NLC and TUC in Gusau, the state capital, the NLC chairman, Sani Haliru said a committee had been set up to ensure compliance with the strike directive.


He said both the private and public schools will not operate, including hospitals, markets, filling stations, courts, motor parks and others.


Haliru said, “We urge members of affiliate unions and the general public to support us as we move to salvage the country and they should be ready as it may turn to a protest.’’


On his part, the state chairman of the TUC, Saidu Mudi emphasized on the unity of the two labour centres, saying they were united to fight for workers’ rights and ensure reduction in the hardships facing Nigerians.


“I am optimistic that there is going to be total compliance as we have mobilized our people from the grassroots level and they agreed to join the strike,” the TUC chairman added.


LG workers set


Speaking in Akure, Ondo State, on Friday, after the election of a new executive of the Ondo State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, the National President of the NULGE, Ambali Olatunji, declared that the union would join the strike.


He said, “The only way to avert the NLC strike by President Bola Tinubu is to offer leadership. All these dancing round the corner would not be the solution. Mr President brought this hardship to Nigeria by his proclamation on May 29 without due diligence to study the economy indices.


‘’We know that the outgone government misled him; any policy that is bringing hardship to the people must be mitigated. We are not contradicting withdrawal of subsidy but there must be structure to mitigate the effect of that subsidy removal.


“Because of our corruption and inefficiency, we cannot maintain our refineries. Nigeria is the only nation in the world that is oil producing that cannot refine crude oil. Must we suffer that? Why should we bear that burden, why can’t we bring those modular refineries operators in the Niger Delta together, sharpen their skills, licence them and also collect tax from them, so that this would be internal?


‘’We don’t have to use hard currency to refine our crude oil; it would bring more jobs and it would enhance local communities. Why are we going after them to destroy their refineries when we don’t have capacity to refine it?’’


Stressing the importance of subsidies, the National Treasurer of the NLC argued that the governments’ world over subsidised goods and services to reduce economic hardships.


As anxiety mounts over the planned strike, the Benue State Governor, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, has appealed to the leadership of the unions to show understanding and exercise patience as the government works towards meeting their demands.


Alia made the appeal in his independence broadcast to the people of the state on Sunday.


The governor said that his administration would not deploy propaganda and political blackmail in governance, but would rather allow its achievements to speak.


Alia said that his administration did not consider regular payment of pensions, gratuity, and public workers’ salaries as an achievement, but promised to sustain the practice and stabilize the welfare package of the states’ workforce.


He said, “In view of the looming industrial action by organised labour across the country, I passionately appeal to the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to reconsider their plans by exercising a little more patience as Government is working round the clock to meet their demands, despite the harsh economic realities.’’


He urged Benue youths trekking to Abuja and other cities to honour certain Nigerians to desist from the act and enjoined them to avail themselves of the ICT training organized by his administration to enable them to become self-reliant.


He said the government under his watch, has left the door opened for innovative ideas and constructive criticisms, adding that corruption and nepotism were being relegated, especially as the administration was ‘’poised to foist the flags of merit, equity, equality, justice and fairness in all its dealings.’’


Alia’s counterpart in Ekiti State, Governor Biodun Oyebanji, has also appealed to the organised Labour to exercise patience and have a rethink over its proposed nationwide industrial action in order not to compound the already tense situation in the country.


Oyebanji, in a broadcast address to mark the 27 years of creation of the state and the 63rd independence anniversary said, “We cannot afford to compound the already tense situation by shutting down this extremely fragile economy. It will be like cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.


“Whatever may be gained thereafter will be nothing but a temporary victory which would have done incalculable damage to the economy and which may be difficult to reverse in the immediate.


“Therefore, I want to appeal to the organized labor movement to exercise absolute patience and dialogue in resolving the current economic challenges.’’


The governor further cautioned that “Hot pap must be sipped gently so as not to cause more damage to an already precarious situation. Accordingly, government and labor have been in constant engagement for some time. I am pleased to note that the President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is confronting these challenges frontally and the country will be better for it in the long run.’’


“On our part, we (Ekiti) have undertaken some interventions to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal on our people. Apart from the direct food distribution and cash transfer to the most vulnerable, the government has also made buses available to staff and students, especially in the state capital to ameliorate the cost of transportation.


“We, therefore, appeal to our local governments to replicate this in their respective local government areas. Beyond this, however, is that the Federal Government has promised that there will be a wage review across the board soon,’’ he reiterated.


Speaking with The PUNCH, the Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria said there is huge expectation from manufacturers and the organised private sector with regard to fruitful deliberations between the Federal Government and the labour unions.


He said the planned industrial action by labor unions would significantly hurt the economy and exacerbate the hardship faced by many businesses.


Ajayi-Kadir said, “I think it is evident to everyone that we are looking forward to a productive outcome. I’m not certain that all the issues will be resolved realistically anytime soon, but they can do that through continuous conversation.


“What one expects is that the government should be able to give reasonable assurances to labor. Labor should also understand the situation the government finds itself in. Grounding the economy and virtually putting a stop to daily business activities is not in the best interest of the economy and the country at this time.”


In a related development, the National Union of Road Transport Workers has said its members would not participate in the Tuesday strike.


The Chairman of NURTW in Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Ariwoola, disclosed that the union’s leadership had directed commercial drivers not to join the labor action.


However, the state NLC said it held a meeting with bank managers in the state to demand total compliance during the strike.


“We visited some of the banks yesterday including Polaris Bank where we told the manager that the strike will be monitored by a special monitoring team and he assured us that once a memo is received by the bank, they will have no choice but to join us.” an NLC official disclosed.


Meanwhile, the NLC has admonished Nigerians to hold their leaders accountable while lamenting the rising cost of living owing to the removal of fuel subsidies.


The NLC President, Joe Ajaero, in a statement on the 63rd Independence anniversary, said Nigerians “must demand accountability from our leaders. The days of impunity and unbridled corruption must come to an end.’’


He added, ‘’We call on all Nigerians to actively participate in the democratic process, holding our elected officials to the highest standards of integrity and performance. It is inexplicable why this persistent contradiction of; the harder we work, the less we earn which has kept Nigerian workers emasculated and unable to meet their basic needs.’’

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