…Signs MoU with FG, suspends strike for 30 days
By Bisi LAWAL
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) bowed to Tinubu-led Federal government Monday night upturning its earlier touted indefinite strike action to commence today.
The Labour organs agreed to suspend its strike action for 30 days to enable the government to fulfil terms of the agreement reached after hours of meeting.
Indications had earlier emerged that the planned nationwide strike would be suspended when officials of the NLC and the TUC returned to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Monday evening to conclude negotiations with the Federal Government, especially after a shift in government position on Sunday night, resulting in the N35,000 wage top-up across all ranks for federal workers.
Owing to trust deficit between Labour and government, both parties had to lock themselves last night in another marathon meeting to fine-tune details of the agreements reached and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) binding on all parties.
The MoU, which was signed by NLC President, Joe Ajaero and General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja; TUC President, Festus Osifo and Secretary-General, Nuhu Toro; and Federal Government delegation: Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Bako Lalong, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Dr. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, and Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, had 15-point agreements.
Top on the agreements reached were: Federal Government grants a wage award of N35,000 to all Federal Government workers beginning from September, pending when a new national minimum wage is expected to have been signed into law; a minimum wage committee to be inaugurated within one month from the date of the agreement; suspension of Value Added Tax (VAT) collection on diesel for six months beginning from October 2023; a vote by Federal Government of N100 billion for the provision of high capacity CNG buses for mass transit in Nigeria; and government plan to implement various tax incentive measures for private sector and the general public.
Also on the agreement reached were a resolution in line with relevant ILO Conventions and Nigerian Labour Acts on the leadership crises rocking the NURTW and purported proscription of RTEAN on or before October 13; outstanding Salaries and Wages of Tertiary Education workers in Federal-owned educational institutions referred to Ministry of Labour and Employment for further engagement; Federal Government’s commitment to pay N25,000 per month for three months starting from October 2023 to 15 million households, including vulnerable pensioners; increase in its initiatives on subsidized distribution of fertilizers to farmers across the country; and a call out to state government through the National Economic Council and Governors Forum to implement wage award for their workers, with similar consideration to be given to local government and private sector workers.
The last leg of the 15-point agreements also include: Federal Government’s commitment to the provision of funds as announced by the President on August 1 broadcast for Micro and Small Scale Enterprises (MSMEs); joint visitation to be made to the refineries to ascertain their rehabilitation status; all parties committing to abide by the dictates of social dialogue in all future engagements; and the NLC and TUC accepting to suspend for 30 days the planned indefinite nationwide strike earlier scheduled to begin today, while the MoU will be filed with the relevant Court of competent jurisdiction within one week as consent judgment by the Federal Government.
Earlier, as details of the agreement reached were still being awaited, NLC President, Ajaero, confirmed that in principle, the strike had been called off after Sunday’s resolutions were extensively agreed to by the National Executive Councils (NEC) of both NLC and TUC.
Ajaero, who noted that their demands were very clear, said labour has not moved away from their demands, even as the Federal Government has probably matched up in one or two areas.
“We have not moved away from what we have been asking for. It would be clear at the end of the meeting if a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) were eventually signed. This would be taken to the Congress’ NEC, which gave the directive for the strike. If satisfied, the strike may be suspended or given some time to decide given the backdrop of the situation.”
While the closed-door meeting was ongoing, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) released a statement that NLC and TUC have jointly suspended the indefinite strike.
The statement signed by Head of Media, MWUN, John Ikemefuna, recalled that NLC had directed its affiliate member unions across the country to mobilise and shut down the country, following the refusal of government to adhere to the seven-points demand made by Labour to ameliorate the suffering of the teeming Nigerian workers and the impoverished masses of the country.
This, he said, made the President-General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, order that all the nation’s seaports, jetties, oil and gas platforms and terminals be shut down accordingly for operations.
However, he said after the outcome of an emergency meeting summoned between the Federal Government and labour leaders, NLC and TUC had jointly agreed to suspend the strike to allow for the implementation of Labour’s demands.
Consequently, he said the NEC of the NLC had directed that all its affiliate members should direct their members to return to work tomorrow (today) as the planned indefinite strike has been suspended.
To this end, he added that Adeyanju, who is also NLC Deputy President, had equally directed that all workers in the maritime sector should resume work tomorrow (today) as instructed by NLC.