The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) last night dashed any hope that the much-talked about nationwide mass action scheduled to commence today would be shelved.
This was confirmed in a statement titled, “We have neither reconsidered nor suspended the nationwide protest” signed by Mr. Joe Ajaero, president of the workers union.
He urged workers and Nigerians to disregard any insinuation that the mass protest had been called off, noting that Nigerians had been fully mobilised to show their opposition to the hike in the pump price of petrol and other anti-people policies of government.
The statement came shortly after Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, said Federal Government was optimistic labour would call off their proposed mass action.
It read: “We want to inform all Nigerians that we have just risen from a meeting with the Federal Government where we sought to get them to listen to the demands of the people and workers of Nigeria.
“The outcome of this meeting earlier today (yesterday) has, however, not changed anything or the course which we have set for ourselves tomorrow (today) as custodians of the interests and desires of Nigerian workers and people.”
The statement admonished Nigerians to ignore the work of fifth columnists who were working hard against the wishes of the people and urged everyone to gather in their respective states and wherever they may be across the nation to give vent to their collective resolve.
The union’s demand include: “immediate implementation in good faith of the resolutions with congress jointly with government and TUC; immediate reversal of all anti-people policies of government including the recent hike in PMS price, school fees and VAT, fix our local refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna, release of eight months withheld salaries of lecturers and workers, accord appropriate recognition and support to the presidential steering committee and the work of its sub-committees and to put a stop to inhuman actions and policies of government.”
After a rescheduled Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives meeting in Abuja, TUC President, Festus Osifo, had hinted that it organised labour could rethink its planned nationwide protest.
Gbajabiamila also told newsmen that the unions have accepted the proposal for palliatives to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal as announced on Monday by President Bola Tinubu in a nationwide broadcast.
“We appealed to labour to call off the strike. And they all agreed that Mr. President’s broadcast was a welcome development and they will go back home to talk to the leaders that are not here. So, we are hopeful that they will do the rightful and call off the strike tomorrow,’’ he said. But Osifo confirmed that organised Labour would consult with members who they represent to reach a consensus on the next course of action.
Osifo stated that government’s proposed measures presented during the meeting were considered a starting point or baseline.
“For us, we felt that the president has said that N1 trillion has been saved in the last two months that what he proposed is not far reaching. Now, as part of the principle of negotiation, when anything is put on the table, you’ll accept but you’ll push for more. So, on our path, we’ve said that what you put on the table is not enough, and that they can do more.
“We think for example, that 3,000 buses are not sufficient. By the time you divide 3,000 by 37, you will see how many they would come up to,’’ he said.
On the issue of the minimum wage proposed by the President during the broadcast, Osifo said the meeting also made observation on that, adding that it was not part of what the union was asking for.
He said that the issue of minimum wage was a legal thing that requires constitutional amendment and that there was no time for such now. “The Committee on the minimum wage has not been constituted. But what we have been advocating for is wage award that doesn’t have much bureaucracy, that you don’t have much issues around the law. Because the law that prescribed minimum wage says every five years, until you amend that, no other thing can key in.
“But we said for the immediate, let the Federal Government come with wage award just like some state government have announced that they will be paying N40,000 or N50,000. So, they should do something like that.
We have also heard some states saying that they’re going to pay PMS allowance of XYZ amount. So those are the wage awards that we were thinking off and we are pushing government to do,’’ he said.