After making some real progress toward some of its demands, Organized Labor sheathed its sword and turned back on its earlier announcement that it would go on indefinite strike action today. The Labour Party decided to end its strike for 30 days so that the government could follow through on the terms of the deal that was made last night after hours of talks.
When leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) went back to the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday evening to finish negotiating with the Federal Government, there were signs that the planned nationwide strike would be put on hold. This was especially true after the government changed its position on Sunday night, which led to the N35,000 pay raise for all federal workers. Because Labor and the government don’t trust each other, they had to stay late last night for another marathon meeting to iron out the details of the deals they made and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that all parties must follow.
It was signed by the NLC’s Joe Ajaero and Emmanuel Ugboaja as General Secretary and President, the TUC’s Festus Osifo and Nuhu Toro as Secretary-General and President, and the Federal Government’s Simon Bako Lalong as Minister of Labour and Employment and Dr. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha as Minister of Information and National Orientation. The MoU had 15 points of agreement.
At the top of the list of deals were: All federal government workers will get a wage award of N35,000 starting in September until a new national minimum wage is signed into law. A minimum wage committee will be set up within one month of the agreement date. From October 2023 to October 2024, value-added tax (VAT) will not be collected on diesel. The Federal Government will vote N100 billion to buy high-capacity CNG buses. The agreement also included a solution that was in line with ILO Conventions and Nigerian Labour Acts for the leadership crisis in the NURTW and the supposed ban on RTEAN by October 13; the Ministry of Labour and Employment would be contacted about the salaries and wages of workers in federally owned tertiary education institutions; and the Federal Government promised to pay N25,000 a month for three months starting from October 13.
In the last part of the 15-point agreement, the Federal Government promised to give money to micro and small-scale enterprises (MSMEs), as the President said on August 1. The refineries will be visited by both sides to see how well they are getting fixed up; everyone will follow the rules of social dialogue in all future interactions; and the NLC and TUC agreed to put off for 30 days the planned indefinite nationwide strike.
While more information about the deal was still being gathered, Ajaero, the president of the NLC, confirmed that the strike had been called off in theory after the resolutions from Sunday were broadly agreed upon by the National Executive Councils (NEC) of both the NLC and the TUC. One of Ajaero’s points was that their demands were very clear. He also said that labor has not changed its demands, even though the federal government has probably done the same in a few areas. “We are still asking for the same things we initially wanted.” At the end of the meeting, it would be clear if a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed.
The NEC of the Congress was told about this, and they gave the order for the strike. If they are happy, the strike could be put on hold or they could be given more time to make a decision. While the meeting behind closed doors was going on, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) said in a statement that the NLC and TUC had stopped the extended strike together. According to a statement by John Ikemefuna, Head of Media for MWUN, the NLC had instructed its affiliate member unions across the nation to organize and shut down the nation because the government had rejected Labour’s seven-point demand to lessen the suffering of the nation’s millions of workers and poor people.
According to him, this is what led Adewale Adeyanju, the President-General of MWUN, to order that all of the country’s seaports, jetties, oil and gas platforms, and docks be closed down. He did say, though, that the NLC and TUC had agreed to end the strike so that Labour’s demands could be met after an emergency meeting between the Federal Government and labor leaders. He said that because of this, the NEC of the NLC told all of its branch members to say to their workers to go back to work tomorrow (today) since the planned indefinite strike had been called off. To this end, he said that Adeyanju, who is also the Deputy President of the NLC, had also told all marine workers to go back to work tomorrow (today), as the NLC had told them to.
In the meantime, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has praised the Federal Government for its decision to exempt fuel from 7.5% value-added tax (VAT). Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, Director General of MAN, said in a statement on Monday in Lagos that the event was good for the real estate sector. In his Independence Day speech on Sunday, President Tinubu called for several changes to be made to the Nigerian economy to boost it. Tinubu said that compressed natural gas (CNG) buses would be used and that more money would be put into micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) to help the economy and raise people’s living standards.
Among other things, he said that Nigerians would get a provisional cash transfer to 15 million families, food relief packages, and a 7.5% AGO tax waiver. The director general of MAN said that the tax break was part of the deal that the association and other members of the organized private sector of Nigeria had made to make peace. He said that earlier they had asked the government and the labor unions to do everything they could to agree so that the country wouldn’t go into a crisis. “We have enough problems as it is, and the manufacturing sector is right on the edge of a recession.” Also, you may remember that MAN fought hard to get the VAT off of diesel because it is such an important “input” to our production process. “We rely on diesel to power our machines and meet our energy needs in the face of an abysmal power supply from the national grid,” they said. You also know that the regular price has increased to N1,000 per liter. On the other hand, diesel is said to power about 90% of the haulage trucks that bring gasoline from bases to stores across the country. “Getting rid of VAT will help lower the cost of production inputs and the cost of moving goods and people in general.” He said, “It should help workers and the economy.”
However, Ajayi-Kadir was worried about the tax waiver’s six-month time limit and asked if there might be a more lasting and effective solution to the problem. We also hope that this time, both the government and the labor union will follow the rules of the agreement. That way, we won’t have to get close to the edge before we can find solutions. He said, “The worries and fears hurt business and throw off production plans.” The National President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said that the N35,000 pay raise for workers was the same as leaving 99 percent of Nigerians in poverty and lack. When Pogu talked about President Tinubu’s Independence Day speech, he said that it was boring and dishonest. He said that the government-run by Tinubu was making the country’s social, economic, and security problems worse. “Up to 1% of the people living in the country are not civil servants.” So what does that mean for the other 98% of Nigerians who are suffering because of this? The All Progressives Congress (APC), his party, is to blame for the bad economy. I don’t blame him because he took over a bad position. They said every bad thing you can think of about former President Jonathan when they came in. What happened to the factories they said they would fix? They promised heaven and earth, but now Nigerians are going through the worst thing you can imagine. Dr. Salihu Lukman, who used to be the director general of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), says that Nigeria doesn’t have the means it needs to meet the NLC’s demands.
According to Lukman’s article titled “Opening Door to Renew the Hope of Workers,” Nigeria is poor if you look at revenue indicators. He said that Nigeria’s government budget of about N20 trillion, or $30 billion, means that the country is about 10% short of what it could spend compared to countries like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and even South Africa, which have budgets of more than $200 billion. He said that things were even worse because, except for Lagos, none of the 36 states in the country have a N1 trillion budget. The funds of most states are less than N250 billion. It costs state governments more than N2 billion monthly average to pay their employees. Many states don’t make more than N1 billion a month. Between N3 and N4 billion are usually taken out of the union account. “Being able to make extra payments to workers to help them deal with the high costs of goods and services caused by the end of the oil subsidy will be too much to ask for in this situation.” Before he retired, Lukman was the APC National Vice Chairman (Northwest). He praised President Tinubu and the leadership of the NLC for raising the planned extra payment to federal government workers from N25,000 to N35,000. “I commend both the Federal Government and the NLC leadership on the historic agreements they reached that would have ended the threat of the October 3 strike. However, it is important that all employers, including the organized private sector and state governments, be included in the talks between the government and organized labor.” The talks should focus on reaching agreements that will boost productivity and bring in more money for the whole Nigerian economy. This will help all employers and organized labor in the country understand how to work together.
President Tinubu made a promise in Renewed Hope 2023: “Show us a door, and we will open it.” This will make that promise come true. If you show us a way, we will take it." Show us a problem, and we’ll determine how to resolve it." To fix unfair working conditions in all fields and all parts of the country, frameworks for negotiations between companies and organized labor need to be set up. In the end, he said, “This will give Nigerian workers new hope more than anything else.”