Subsidy: Labour threatens strike, resumes talks with FG

Workers during a protest (FILE PHOTO)

Ahead of the meeting between the Federal Government and the organised labour scheduled to hold today (Monday), the Nigeria Labour Congress has said the government must meet its demands to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.

The union threatened that it would not hesitate to call out workers for industrial action, adding that it only suspended its planned strike.

It stated that the high cost of fuel was inflicting unbearable hardship on Nigerians, adding that the government must act fast with respect to providing palliatives, as the NLC said it was expecting an increase in the minimum wage from N30,000 to N150,000.

The Federal Government and labour unions met on June 5, 2023, with a resolution to reconvene on June 19 to agree on the implementation framework of the resolutions reached.

The former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, who led the government side, had disclosed this at the end of the meeting between labour and government representatives at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

According to him, the June 5 meeting agreed on a seven-point resolution to cushion the effect of the subsidy removal on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, on Nigerians.

โ€œThe Federal Government, the TUC, and the NLC to establish a joint committee to review the proposal for any wage increase or award and establish a framework and timeline for implementation.

The Federal Government, the TUC and the NLC to review the World Bank Financed Cash transfer scheme and propose the inclusion of low-income earners in the programme.

โ€œThe Federal Government, the TUC and the NLC to revive the CNG conversion programme earlier agreed with Labour centres in 2021 and work out detailed implementation and timing,โ€ Gbajabiamila had stated.

Labour warns

But when contacted on Sunday to speak on the expectations of labour from the meeting scheduled to hold today (Monday), the Vice President, NLC, Adewale Adeyanju, said a lot of things had been presented by labour unions, stressing that the government should not act funny.

โ€œThere are a lot of things that labour has been putting before the government. The refineries need to be revamped. We cannot continue to import refined petroleum products and be spending on subsidies all the time.

โ€œLabour has its set of demands and by the time we meet with the government tomorrow we will list them out again,โ€ he stated.

Asked to state what action the NLC would take should the government fail to give in to the demands of labour, considering the plight currently faced by Nigerians with respect to the removal of subsidy, Adeyanju replied, โ€œYou know we only suspended our strike as a result of the need to meet on this.

โ€œSo the government should know that things are becoming difficult and they (the government) should not decide to do anything funny. The strike was only suspended. It was an ultimatum that was given out and it (strike) was suspended.

โ€œSo letโ€™s hear what the government has for us and then we will know what to tell our members. It is about the lives of the people. Letโ€™s meet them tomorrow and then labour will come out with its position.โ€

Adeyanju, however, expressed optimism that the meeting would be fruitful and insisted that the NLC would not want the government to behave funny.

โ€œWe hope that the meeting is going to be fruitful. The expectations are very high. The nation is watching and people are looking at how the Nigeria Labour Congress is going to handle the situation.

โ€œAnd the government too will not like to behave funny because they know the country is battling with the increase in fuel pump price and so many things,โ€ he stated.

On the proposal by oil marketers for the deployment of Compressed Natural Gas at filling stations, the NLC official stated that a technical committee had been set up by the Federal Government to look into the matter.

โ€œThe government has set up a technical committee on some of these issues. So I donโ€™t want us to preempt the outcomes that will come out from that meeting tomorrow between labour and the government,โ€ he stated.

Commenting on the need to deploy CNG, the National President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chinedu Okonkwo, stated that oil marketers were looking forward to the outcomes of the meeting between the Federal Government and labour before making their moves.

โ€œThat meeting tomorrow (Monday) is very crucial, because marketers are ready to deploy CNG, but the outcome of that meeting will tell us whether the government is ready to give the support needed to make this initiative fruitful.

โ€œWe are very confident that with the deployment of CNG as a substitute to PMS, the harsh effect caused by petrol price hike would be addressed significantly,โ€ Okonkwo stated on Sunday.

NLCโ€™s benchmark

The NLC also stated on Sunday that it was expecting an increment in minimum wage from N30,000 to between N150,000 and N200,000.

It further urged President Bola Tinubu to ensure that borders were re-opened to ensure smooth importation and exportation of food and farm products.

The National Treasurer, NLC, Hakeem Ambali, made the disclosure in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja.

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