- Agrees to Dialogue on Wage, Refineries Turn-Around Maintenance, Others
PRESIDENT Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s proclamation in his inaugural address penultimate Monday, May 29, 2023 that “subsidy is gone” has come to pass as organised labour on night of Monday, June 5, 2023 surrendered in its decades-old battles against total removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
The leadership of organised labour, represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) were successfully caged by the representatives of the federal government led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives/Chief of Staff to the President, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, into signing some resolutions, which were not even as good as some past offers the NLC had rejected for being intangible due to government’s persistent lack of fidelity to negotiated agreements.
Endorsing the resolutions on behalf of organised labour include Comrade Joseph Ajaero and Comrade Emmanuel Ugboaja, President and General Secretary respectively of the NLC; while Comrade Festus Osifo and Comrade Nuhu Toro, President and Secretary General respectively of the TUC.
Signing on the government side are the Hon Gbajabiamila, and on Ms Kachallom S. Daju, the permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The signing of the seven-point resolutions arrived during the dialogue culminated in the suspension of the nationwide workers strike and protests called by the NLC scheduled to commence on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
The seven resolutions include:
“The Federal Government, the TUC and the NLC to establish a joint committee to review the proposal for any wage increase or award and establish a framework and timeline for implementation.
“The Federal Government, the TUC and the NLC to review World Bank Financed Cash transfer scheme and propose inclusion of low-income earners in the programme.
“The Federal Government, the TUC and the NLC to revive the CNG conversion program earlier agreed with Labour centers in 2021 and work out detailed implementation and timing.
“The Labour Centers and the Federal Government to review issues hindering effective delivery in the education sector and propose solutions for implementation.
“The Labour Centers amd the Federal Government to review and establish the framework for completion of the rehabilitation of the nation’s refineries.
“The Federal Government to provide a framework for the maintenance of roads and expansion of rail networks across the country.
“All other demands submitted by the TUC to the Federal Government will be assessed by the joint committee.”
While parties agreed that the NLC call off its strike, it was also agreed that that “The TUC and the NLC [are] to continue the ongoing engagements with the Federal Government and secure closure on the resolutions above,” in addition to a further agreement that “The Labour Centers and the Federal Government [are] to meet on June 19, 2023, to agree on an implementation framework.”
Mourning Mood in Labour/Civil Society Circles
Although, there was some level of scepticism within labour, civil society circles and the general public when the NLC issued the strike and protest ultimatum on Friday following the emergency meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC) in Abuja, there was a high degree of expectation against the backdrop of the new leadership of NLC under Comrade Ajaero.
In various social media platforms, particularly organised labour/civil society social media fora, there were predictions that the strike would not hold as labour was going to cave in to pressure and call it off before it began. Even with the certainty of the prediction, there was generally a feeling of mourning with sparse commentary by people.
A comrade, a keen follower of National Record‘s news, upon reading the news of NLC’s ultimatum last Friday had stated: “For some years now, NLC has not gone on strike or proposed any strike action that held.” When she read the trending news on social media about the suspension of the strike this morning; her response was: “I told you it won’t hold…”
A measured comment by political economist, Prof Pam Sha, on a WhatsApp platform, after reading the resolutions, reads: “Hmmm. Fixing the refineries is in a distant 5th. CNG is coming 3rd. All the other 4 resolutions are palliatives.
“My conclusion is that the labour centres may likely settle for an increase in fuel price. They will have an agreement on fixing the refineries even with time-frames, but the government will not fix these refineries. Let them not tell us that “government has no hand in business”.
“My economics is: fix refineries, push out importers, use money for importation on roads and infrastructure and social services.”
One of the most critical and discerning comments, came from Adeyeye Olorunfemi, titled: “ANOTHER SHIT OF PAPER HAS BEEN SIGNED.”
Olorunfemi fired: “I have checked this whole sheet of nonsense and I am more than disappointed than there is no flip side. Like I was practically looking for the extra sheet attached to it that would contain things that make sense.
“To start with, was the agreement with the FG a congressional resolution or the NLC/TUC leaders just made up these by themselves? So, it’s either we don’t understand democracy as a system of government or we don’t appreciate it as a people.
“Where is the resolution that says petrol must be reversed to the former price while even these “talks” are ongoing? So these leaders have accepted subsidy removal already? What they are after is how 800 million dollars that Buhari borrowed will be shared. How 5,000 Naira will be shared to 55 million households. Who buys petrol for those vulnerable Nigerians the day after they have received the conditional transfer of 5,000? The last one they claimed they shared, I do not till today, know any vulnerable person around me who received any cash transfer.
“It’s a simple principle of negotiation, that you negotiate from the point of strength and not weakness. Where’s the strength of the NLC in this sheet? I mean this shit of paper.
“Everything stated here have always been the lies and delay tactics employed by the @NigeriaGov. Did the NLC/TUC leaders discuss how long Nigerians will have to suffer to buy fuel while these talks are on? How long will they use 30k minimum wage to buy only 50 litres of fuel? How long will they trek to work because of high fares? What about food inflation as a result of subsidy removal in petrol? How long?
“Comrades. We have the ASUU example here with us. The talks with ASUU have been on like forever. At some point when both parties got tired, they changed the title of the paper they were signing (just like this) from Memorandum of Understanding to Memorandum of Action. Nothing still. It’s left to Nigerians to either accept this shit of paper or fight.
“Government when they are in panic mode, are always quick at signing anything. It ends right there.
“I can predict correctly that after this committee is done, another committee will be set up to review what this committee has proposed. Another will be set up for implementation. Another will issue a white paper and another will have to sit with Tinubu to explain what’s in the paper.
“We’ve been here before, people. Wake up!