New Telegraph

NLC, TUC Threaten Shutdown As Meeting With FG End In Deadlock

The meeting between the Federal Government and the national leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC)  has reportedly ended in deadlock.

Recall that the NLC and TUC on February 8 issued a 14-day nationwide strike notice to the Federal Government over the failure to implement the agreements reached on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol.

The unions said despite their efforts to ensure industrial peace, the government seemed unperturbed by the mass suffering and hardship across the country.

Speaking in an interview with The Punch on Tuesday, the NLC Vice President, Hakeem Ambali, said the meeting between the organised labour and the Minister of State Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha ended in a deadlock.

According to Ambali, the minister could not convince the unions to suspend the strike slated for February 23, adding that the meeting was called to review the level of implementation of the October agreement.

He asserted that the strike would go on unless the Federal Government addressed the untold hardship meted out to Nigerians by the removal of the fuel subsidy.

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He said, “The meeting realised that major parts of the agreement had not been implemented, and the Labour minister expressed her disappointment that the government had not kept faith with the spirit of the agreements.

“The meeting resolved subsequently that the agreements have not been well implemented and that they (government) still have windows of opportunities to meet to address all these to avert the impending strikes.”

Ambali lamented that the Federal Government had yet to fulfil its part of the agreement with the labour movement, adding that the agreement was time-bound.

He said: “The two-week ultimatum stands except the government does the needful and addresses the untold hardship meted on Nigerians by the famous pronunciation that ‘subsidy is gone’ on 29 May.

“We can see pockets of protests across the country. These are very dangerous. So, Labour must rise and offer leadership; Our ultimatum is patriotic.

“We signed an agreement in October last year that the buses would be ready to ply Nigeria’s road in December last year. We are already in February. I do not think we have seen any bus on the road.

“On the wage award, which is N35,000, we also realised that the government has not kept faith with that. They were only able to pay one until we issued an ultimatum for 14 days. We realised that even state governments did not negotiate with their labour unions.

“What they only did was that they started paying N10,000 before the agreement was signed. Some of the governors were part of the meeting back then in October. They would have called the labour unions and negotiated new wages, which were not done.”

On the minimum wage negotiation, Ambali noted the NLC declined to meet with the committee as the government was supposed to address the issue.

He said: “For emphasis is the issue of the minimum wage committee. By law, in September 2023, the minimum wage committee should have come into operation six months after the expiration of the old Minimum Wage Act, which was not done.

“The committee was inaugurated about two weeks ago and with the negotiation statute-barred because it is expected to have matured by March 31, 2024, when the existing law becomes obsolete.

“Even now, they said the committee was to brief us yesterday (Monday), we said we are not looking for a technical session. That it is a joint committee between Labour and government who is supposed to have briefed us, and the committee never met.”

Also, a top NLC official said the unions scheduled a second meeting with the labour minister.

“The Ministry of Labour of Labour and Employment is just an intervention platform. What the ministry is doing is to come in and say they would arrange the meeting, but it is not in any position to make an offer,’’ he clarified.

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