Fuel Price, Electricity Tariff: No more strike! Labour ‘chickens’ out

Fuel Price, Electricity Tariff: No more strike! Labour ‘chickens’ out
September 28 07:38 2020 Print This Article

By Martin Odiete, Abuja

Leaders of the organised labour have back down on the planned nationwide strike over the increase in petrol price and electricity tariffs.

The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had earlier directed their members to remain at home from from Monday until their demands were met.

But following hours of negotiations during a meeting at the Presidential Villa Banquet Hall in Abuja which started around 8.30pm, officials of the organized labour called off the strike and asked their members to go to work.

Reading the communiqué after the meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige said the parties agreed to set up a technical committee comprising ministries, departments, agencies, NLC and TUC, which will work for a duration of 2 weeks effective from Monday.

According to him, the committee will “examine the justifications for the new policy in view of the need for the validation of the basis for the new cost-reflective tariff as a result of the conflicting information from the fields which appeared different from the data presented to justify the new policy by NERC metering deployment, challenges, timeline for massive roll – out.”

He added that, “All parties agreed on the urgency for increasing the local refining capacity of the nation to reduce the over dependency on importation of petroleum products to ensure energy security, reduce cost of finished products, increase employment and business opportunities for Nigerians. “And to cushion the impacts of the downstream sector deregulation and tariffs adjustment in the power sector, the federal government will implement the following:

A specific amount to be unveiled by the FGN in two weeks’ time will be isolated from the Economic Sustainability Programme Intervention Fund and be accessed by Nigerian workers with subsequent provision for 240,000 under the auspices of NLC and TUC for participation in agricultural ventures through the CBN and the Ministry of Agriculture. The timeline will be fixed at the next meeting.
Federal Government will facilitate the removal of tax on minimum wage as a way of cushioning the impacts of the policy on the lowest vulnerable.
Federal Government will make available to organized labour 133 CNG/LPG driven mass transit buses immediately and provide to the major cities across the Country on a scale up basis thereafter to all States and Local Governments before December 2021.
Housing: 10% be allocated to Nigerian workers under the ongoing Ministry of Housing and Finance initiative through the NLC and TUC.
Consequently, the NLC and TUC agreed to suspend the planned industrial action.

Horse trading ahead of truce

Earlier, the organized labour took a swipe at the federal government over two recent court injunctions secured last Thursday and Friday restraining the unions and their affiliates from proceeding with the strike over the increase in petrol price and hike in electricity tariffs.

The Nigerian workers during a meeting at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja insisted that nothing will stop them from embarking on the indefinite strike but a reversal of the increases.

A similar meeting was deadlocked on Thursday, even as the parties agreed to meet today in order to deliberate further. However, after realising that the labour unions have resolved to go on with the strike today, officials of the federal government engaged them last night but nothing fruitful came out of the meeting.

During the meeting, Ngige first appreciated labour leaders led by NLC President Ayuba Wabba and his counterpart from the TUC, Quadri Olaleye, for attending the emergency meeting. He later stirred the hornet’s nest by saying there were court processes ordering the organised labour not to embark on strike.

Ngige had said, “At our last meeting, which the press described as deadlocked, I don’t think it was deadlocked. I made it clear that we put something on the table and labour centres said they will go and fine-tune those proposals to suit their own needs.

“And in between that, there were some other developments. A judicial process was served on us by a CSO asking us as defendants to make sure that there is no strike. So, we felt that because of those issues, our date for us to reconvene tomorrow was no longer tenable.

“I therefore contacted the head of the two labour centres and the SGF and the Chief of Staff to the president and we all agreed that we need to talk and dialogue as soon as possible. That necessitated our invitation which was very urgent.

“I don’t think we will waste much time, we know where we stopped last time. So, when we go into the interactive session, we will take some quick decision that will enable both parties to know that this reconciliation process is temporarily at an end of a stanza.”

But angered by Ngige’s remarks, the NLC President, Wabba warned the minister not to talk about the court orders if there would be headway during the emergency meeting.

The labour leader, however, described the court orders as rumours, adding that they were not afraid to go to court to challenge any injunction if it was real.

Wabba said, “We are here again because when we met here on Thursday, we could not conclude the discussion. First, is the fact that the government presented their positions, we also presented ours. Therefore, it was concluded that there was a need for consultation and the meeting was adjourned till Monday.

“As you said this particular session was conveyed under emergency circumstance because all of us are committed to social dialogue that is why we are here. Some of our colleagues missed their flights and so they could not join us.

“I think it is good for me to respond to one or two issues. One is the judicial process that the honourable minister of labour mentioned. Let me say clearly, that as we sit here, labour has not been served any process.

“Let us not forget that because, we, labour unions, are passionate about this issue, particularly the hike in electricity tariff. Remember we had to seek judicial pronouncement and as I speak here, there is still a subsisting court judgement…The Federal High Court in Lagos that said the increase is illegal.

“Therefore, it should be set aside. I am not sure that judgement has been respected up till today; I am not saying because of that if there are clear-cut issues we cannot proceed. I think we must also understand the context. If we are on the negotiation table and we have come to the table with open minds and the commitment, I think we should emphasise the issues that are on the table instead of trying to divert our attention by referring to a process, which we are not known to it.

“I think we shouldn’t bring some of those issues to the table because I thought we are here to make resolutions. As usual, it is out of our commitment that despite that today is Sunday and we are here to see how to resolve those issues.

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