Strike: FG opens discussions with TUC over fuel subsidy removal, NLC officials absent 

dele Alake 1

The federal government Sunday opened up discussions with the officials of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUCN) over the removal of fuel subsidy last Monday.

At the meeting, the TUC presented a list of demands to government including an increase in minimum wage to cushion the effects of the increase in prices of fuel, tax holiday for certain categories of people and revert to status quo as negotiations continue.

The government side acknowledged the feasibility of the demands, stressing that the demands would be presented to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu immediately.

Spokesperson for the government delegation Mr Dele Alake told State House correspondents that most of the demands by the TUC “are not impracticable.”

He said the demands would be presented to the President whose decisions would be reverted to the labour leaders at the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Asked if the demand by labour leaders that the new pump price of petrol be reversed pending conclusion of negotiations, Alake said a decision would likely be taken on Tuesday when the two sides meet again.

“As you all know, we had this reconvened meeting today as we promised you few days ago when we had the initial meeting with the Labour movement.

“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.

“The TUC that attended today’s meeting presented a list of demands and those demands we have studied and we are going to present to Mr President, for his consideration.

“But those demands we can announce to Nigerians that a lot of the items on the list, are not impracticable.

“What we need to do is to study the numbers very well. Then, we have asked the TUC to also give us a leeway to consult very exhaustively and reconvene on Tuesday to actually look at the numbers, viability, practicability of all the items that have been presented to us.

“Now, most important and top priority on the list which the government is also looking at very seriously and the president has announced before, is the issue of the minimum wage which the Labour movement has demanded is the consequential impact of this removal of subsidy.

“So, government is look at that and Mr President is most likely going to constitute a tripartite committee, that is a committee of federal government, including the state and then the organised labour and the private sector.

“Now, this is a tripartite arrangement, it will be a committee that will study all the dynamics of a wage increase in percentages, the numbers and the categories that will be affected.

“So, by Tuesday when we come back to reconvene, to meet with the TUC again, we should have very concrete items to present to the world. But the most important thing for today is that we are making appreciable progress with the labour,” he said.

Alake also told journalists that the federal government is yet to engage the Nigeria Labor Congress, stressing that government was making efforts to reach the congress.

The NLC had directed its affiliated unions and associations to commence strike on Wednesday to protest the removal of fuel subsidy by the federal government.

“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,” he said.

On whether the meeting discussed the claim by Mr Bayo Onanuga that the NLC was working for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 elections Mr 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.”

Also speaking, TUC president Mr Festus Osifo said while some progress has been made, the congress would brief its members ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

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

“As will recall that we were all here on Wednesday last week and after the meeting, after the meeting of Wednesday, government gave us their position and told us the reason why they did what they did, but on our part we did not agree with them.

“So, they presented some of the things they considered as palliatives to us, that we should consider them in the meeting, but we told them no that we cannot consider them in that meeting, that we’re going back to call our respective organs.

“So we went back, called the NEC of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria on Friday and during the NEC meeting, the NEC of TUC decided that because we already told government as at Wednesday that we’re taking their demands back, we want to go and look at them because they asked us for our demands, we said we didn’t have the mandate to discuss the mandates as at then.

“We went back, we called our meetings on Friday, we had extensive deliberations and our NEC now mandated us with some lists of demands, to come and meet with the government side today. So the meeting we just concluded, we have detailed and marshalled out the list of our demands to them.

“They also in turn told us that when they presented the items to us on Wednesday we told them that we were going back to our principals, so they also need to touch base with Mr President so that we’ll reconvene this meeting again on Tuesday. Topmost in our demands was clearly stated, that for utmost good faith and in the interest of social dialogue, that they should revert to back the pump price while discussions continues,” he said.