The Sunday meeting between top officials of the Federal Government and organised labour to address the issue of planned indefinite strike action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) appeared to have yielded good result as labour may call off the proposed strike.
An indication to this effect was given at the end of the four-hour meeting held at the State House, Abuja, as government delegation led by Chief of Staff to the President, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, reeled out some steps being taken by government to mitigate the effect of fuel subsidy removal which the leadership of both the NLC and TUC said they will table before their respective organs on Monday for consideration.
Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mallam Mohammed Idris, who was part of government team at the meeting in a release issued on Sunday evening summarised the outcome of the meeting.
According to the statement, the Federal Government, on Sunday, October 1, 2023 met with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on measures to address the dispute arising from the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
“The two parties noted the following:
“The Federal Government has announced N35,000 only 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 next 6 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.”
The Federal Government delegation and the Labour team after elaborate deliberations thereafter resolved as follows:
“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 award 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 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.
“Governor Abdulrazak Abdulrahman of Kwara State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and 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, Mohammed 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 (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
“The labour delegation was led by NLC President, Joe Ajaero, Deputy President, TUC, Dr Tommy Etim Okon, NLC General Secretary, Emma Ugboaja, TUC General Secretary, Nuhu Toro, among others”.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting, the Chief of Staff to the President and leader of the government team, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila announced that President Tinubu has accepted the organized labours demand that the wage award should be across board.
He said, “We’ve been at a closed door meeting with labor and government side since three o’clock. So, it’s been about four hour meeting.
“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 is 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 Labour and government side?
“Hopefully, we expect that Labour will call a meeting of their various branches and executive tomorrow to do 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. Thank you very much.
“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 will be given the wage bill there is nothing like low income, median income or high income. I think that it was worthy of clarification tonight.”
Making clarification on the N25, 000 provisional wage increment, the CoS said, “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 say and 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.”
Also speaking, NLC President, Joe Ajaero said, “I don’t have much to say than what 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 (Gbajabiamila) 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.”
On his part, acting President of TUC, Tommy Etim 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-fertilize ideas and see the way forward. I’m sure we’re coming back again tomorrow for that”.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja