Fuel subsidy: NLC boycotts talks with FG, insists on Wednesday strike

•TUC demands increase in minimum wage, tax holiday, others, FG to raise tripartite committee


From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was absent as the Federal Government met with a section of the labour union, yesterday.

     But the Trade Union Congress at the reconvened meeting presented a list of demands in the aftermath of the petrol subsidy removal and hike in petrol price.

The demand include increase in minimum wage to cushion effects of the increase in petroleum prices, tax holiday for some categories of people as well as revert to status quo as negotiations continued.

While government side acknowledged the feasibility of the demands, they stated that they would be presented to President Bola Tinubu with immediate effect and assured that it is actively engaging with the umbrella union body, the NLC, which had recently announced a nationwide strike starting from Wednesday.

The NLC had insisted that government must revert to the previous petrol pump price.

NLC, in a statement signed by its President, Joseph Ajaero, last Wednesday, had said the new pricing template was vexatious and an ambush and warned that it may scuttle its ongoing dialogue with government.

“This is an ambush and runs against the spirit and principles of Social Dialogue which remains the best platform available for the resolution of all the issues arising out of the petroleum down-stream sector.

“This negates the spirit of allowing the operation of the free market unless the government has as usual usurped, captured or become Market forces.

“It is, therefore, unacceptable and we seriously condemn it. Good faith negotiation is key to reaching agreement. What the government has done is like holding a gun to the head of Nigerian people and bring undue pressure on the leaders thus undermine the dialogue.”

At yesterday’s parley, spokesman for the government’s delegation, Dele Alake, told State House Correspondents that most of the demands were not impracticable and would be tabled before the president whose decisions would be reverted to labour leaders at the next round of negotiations fixed for today.

Asked if the other demand by Labour that the new pump price of petrol be reversed pending conclusion of negotiations, Alake said the decision would likely be taken when the meet reconvene.

On NLC’s absence, Alake said maybe it way unable to finalise with its NEC before the meeting.

Nonetheless, negotiations would continue with all labour unions and stakeholders, he said.

Alake told reporters: “We said we were going to reconvene today to keep the engagement on in order to diffuse the tension in the land as a result of the withdrawal of subsidy, which is a reality.

“Now, we are very happy to announced to Nigerians that this engagement has been very productive.

On whether the team is also negotiating with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Alake said they were making efforts to reach the congress..

“No. We are not. but we are making efforts to reach NLC. We all agreed that we are going to meet here but again, in this game there are dynamics. Sometimes, they could be meeting with their own executives and not able to meet with us, or they could want to postpone or they have not actually articulated their list of demands as the TUC.

“But we cannot second guess why they are not here. But efforts are being made to reach them, we are not isolating them at all.”

On whether the meeting discussed the claim by one of Tinubu’s spokesmen, Bayo Onanuga’s claim that NLC was working for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the just-concluded elections, Peter Obi, Alake declared: “No not at all. It has no relevance to the discussion on the concrete terms of the welfare of the workers.  Our discussion was majorly on the welfare of workers, how to cushion the impact of this subsidy removal on workers that’s all. Not on any political partisanship.”

TUC president, Festus Osifo,told journalists after the parley that while some progress has been made in the negotiations, the union would still brief its members ahead of today’s meeting.

He declined to give a full list of the demands presented to government on the grounds that the union wants to continue negotiating in good faith, as government delegation also did not reveal details of its own side of the meeting.

Asked why NLC was not at the meeting, he said: “Because when you call an organ meeting and organ takes a life of its own, the decision of your organ is what you are expected to implement. All of us here today are agents of NEC of TUC, the NEC of TUC took a decision and that decision is what we’re trying to push through.”

Blackout imminent

Electricity workers, under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), have said they would join the planned strike.

The NUEE, in a notice signed by Dominic Igwebike, acting general secretary, urged its members to comply with the directive and stop work from the early hours of  Wednesday.

“Sequel to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on June 2, 2023 at the Labour house Abuja, over the sudden removal of fuel subsidy which has brought untold hardship to Nigerians as well as increased inflation in the economy, the NLC has directed that the nationwide withdrawal of Services action will commence on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.”

“To this effect, all National, State and Chapter executives are requested to start the mobilisation of our members in total compliance with this directive.

“Please note that withdrawal of Services nationwide commences from 0.00 hours of Wednesday, June 7, 2023,” the memo said

Following the union’s decision, Nigeria may witness another round of blackouts beginning on Wednesday.

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