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Labour presses on, to decide on strike

The leadership of the organised labour will meet with its organs today to discuss the N35,000 provisional wage award which the federal government approved yesterday…

The leadership of the organised labour will meet with its organs today to discuss the N35,000 provisional wage award which the federal government approved yesterday for all treasury-paid federal workers for six months.

The president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, stated this in an interview with State House reporters yesterday after a four-hour meeting with the government delegation led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila.

Ajaero said the organised labour could not unilaterally shelve the indefinite strike it scheduled for October 3 without recourse to its organs.

“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.

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“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 are 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.

The acting president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Tommy Etim Okon, who also addressed journalists, said the labour would meet its organs today to review the outcomes of the meeting with the government delegation.

He added that the team from the organised labour would return for another meeting today.

He said, “Let me, on behalf of the TUC, also point out to the fact that we have had series of conversations surrounding the issue raised and we do hope that by tomorrow (today), 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 am sure we are coming back again tomorrow (today) for that.”

In a statement after the meeting, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had approved N35,000 provisional wage award for all treasury-paid federal government workers for six months, following further consultations with the Federal Government delegation that met with the leadership of the NLC and the TUC yesterday.

President Tinubu had, earlier yesterday in his 63rd Independence Day Anniversary broadcast, announced the N25,000 increment for low-grade federal workers.

The minister said during the meeting, the labour unions made case for higher wage award.

He said a sub-committee would 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 NLC and the TUC had called for an indefinite strike commencing on October 3 in protest against the alleged failure by the government to provide palliatives and implement policies to cushion the effect of the petrol subsidy removal on the masses.

Several workers’ unions across the country had declared their readiness to join the strike.

The unions include the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutes (SSAUTHRIA); the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, and the Medical & Health Workers Union of Nigeria.

In different statements signed by their respective leaderships, the unions had directed their affiliates across the nation to start maximum mobilization of all its members without delay while urging all-out compliance from members.

The information minister said at the meeting between both parties, the Federal Government pledged its  commitment to fast-tracking the provision of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses to ease public transportation difficulties associated with the removal of PMS subsidy.

He said the Federal Government also committed to the provision of funds for micro and small-scale enterprises as well as waivers on VAT on diesel for the next six months.

“Furthermore, the Federal Government announced that it will commence payment of N75,000 to 15 million households at N25,000 per month, for a three-month period  from October-December 2023,” he stated.

Idris said the government urged the labour unions not to embark on strike as the issues in dispute could only be resolved when workers are at work.

“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.

“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,” the minister added.

Earlier while addressing reporters on the outcome of the meeting,  Gbajabiamila had stated that all cadres of workers in the Federal Civil Service would benefit from the N25,000 wage increment for six months.

He said a lot of issues concerning the average Nigerian worker were addressed during the meeting.

“We have reached certain agreements that are 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.”

The chief of staff, who said the organized labour would brief its branches and executives today on the agreement, clarified that the president agreed that all categories of workers would benefit from the N25,000 wage increment for six months.

He said, “Hopefully, we expect that labour will call a meeting of their various branches and executive tomorrow (today) 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.

“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.

“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,” Gbajabiamila said.

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.

Also in attendance were the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun; 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.

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