Government’s Half-Hearted Implementation of 16-point Agreement Breeds Fresh Labour Strike

Government’s Half-Hearted Implementation of 16-point Agreement Breeds Fresh Labour Strike

It is a test case of trust; Organised Labour doesn’t trust the government; the masses rarely trust organized Labour to be able to pull through a successful strike action without chickening out after a few days. The government is culpable in always reneging on agreements. But seems to have mastered its game on how to

It is a test case of trust; Organised Labour doesn’t trust the government; the masses rarely trust organized Labour to be able to pull through a successful strike action without chickening out after a few days. The government is culpable in always reneging on agreements. But seems to have mastered its game on how to handle labour and render its actions ineffective.

On the eve of another round of protests heralding a full strike action, the house of labour appears divided. The ding-dong game between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) appears unending. Its like they are popularly locked in a game of popularity. It would, however, appear that the NLC protests called for February 27 and 28, is well-timed. The ordinary people in some states of the federation without coordination have successfully staged protests. It shouldn’t be difficult for labour to rally one because of the general complaint of hardship in the land.

But what are the issues provoking the labour protest? On October 2, 2023, the government of President Bola Tinubu signed a 16-point agreement with organized labour. The Memorandum of Understanding covers a range of issues that if implemented will lower the pains of the hardship on the economy on the Nigerian worker. But it appears the agreement has been kept more in the breach. This has made Labour give the government an ultimatum to commence a strike action.

In its review of the state of the agreement, organized labour noted: “We wish to state that these agreements, which encompass a wide range of issues crucial to the well-being of Nigerian masses and workers, have not been honoured as pledged by the Federal Government.

“From Wage Awards, Palliative adjustments to improved access to public utilities; to the meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the interference by the Lagos State Government in union activities, the case of illegal and unlawful proscription of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria RTEAN. The government’s failure to uphold its end of the bargain is deeply regrettable and unacceptable to the working people and the citizenry.

“Constrained by this development and recognizing the urgency of the situation and the imperative of ensuring the protection and defense of the rights and dignity of Nigerian workers and citizens, the NLC and TUC hereby issue a stern ultimatum to the Federal Government, to honour their part of the understanding within 14 Days from tomorrow, the 9th day of February, 2024”.

According to labour, the unions cannot pick a “particular item of agreement” that the federal government has fulfilled satisfactorily.

Giving a further breakdown, Labour noted that the agreement focused on the payment of a N35,000 wage award to workers for six months, the inauguration of a committee on minimum wage review, and the provision of buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), among others

“At the end of January, they paid some agencies an additional one month. Only two months have been paid to some people, and in some cases, just one month.” Speaking on a television progamme recently, President of the Trade Union Congress, Comrade Osifo wondered if the demands of organised labour were being transmitted to President Bola Tinubu.

But the Nigerian government keeps assuring workers that it is committed to honouring the agreements it signed with labour. According to the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mrs. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, “the government is unwavering in its commitment to the full implementation of all agreements reached with them”.

The Minister gave the assurance while reacting to the 14-day ultimatum that the organized labour, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had given the federal government, to implement the 16-point agreement reached with them on the 2nd of October, 2023.

She emphasized that the government had no intention of reneging on the contents of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed with the two unions, and urged them to continue demonstrating restraint in their decisions and actions as the government keeps working to address the challenges currently faced by the nation.

The government has consequently provided an update on the status of the agreement it reached with labour to demonstrate its good faith:

Updates on the Agreement from the Government’s Perspective

On the payment of the wage award of N35,000 for Six Months, the Government has so far paid for four months up to 31st December 2023. The remaining two months of January and February 2024 are being processed.

On the Minimum Wage Committee, the Government has on 30th January 2024, inaugurated a 37 Member Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage to review and come up with an acceptable and sustainable minimum wage for the Nigerian Workers. The Committee has so far held two meetings and discussions are ongoing.

Concerning the suspension of collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) on Diesel for Six Months beginning from October, 2023, this was effected immediately. It is on record, that no one has been subjected to this form of taxation since October 2023.

On the provision of CNG Buses and conversion Kits, the Government has so far made substantial financial commitments in this area. These buses will be rolled out very soon to alleviate the transportation challenges being faced by Nigerians.

On the issue of various tax incentives as contained in the agreement, the Government has commenced a series of engagements with relevant stakeholders while all necessary machinery are being put in place for effective implementation.

On the Leadership Crises rocking NURTW and RTEAN, the Government waded into the matter and the issue has been amicably resolved. The Lagos State Government was mandated to address the matter and as we speak, the Executive Body of the Union has been inaugurated and all contending issues are resolved.

Concerning the outstanding Salaries and wages of Tertiary Education workers in federally owned Educational Institutions, the Government has paid in full the four months’ outstanding salaries to ASUU as approved by Mr. President. Action is ongoing for other Unions as well.

So far, 3,140,819 households including vulnerable Pensioners have benefitted from the N25,000 monthly conditional cash transfer amounting to N68.3 billion before the temporary suspension of the programme.

Concerning the issue of subsidized distribution of Fertilizers to Farmers across the country, the Government has made tremendous progress in this regard to ensure effective distribution to farmers to boost agricultural production.

The government claims it has constantly engaged various State Governments and the Private Sector on the issue of the implementation of wage awards for their workers and this has been receiving favourable compliance from State Governments. The government will continue to use all relevant channels to ensure the sustainability of the programmes.

To encourage Micro and Small Enterprises as contained in Mr President’s Broadcast on 1st August 2023 to the Nation, plans have reached an advanced stage to accelerate the process of job creation through the release of funds to Micro and Small-Scale businesses.

To ascertain the level of rehabilitation of the Refineries in the country, a joint visitation by the Government and Organized Labour was successfully carried out today, 21st February 2024 and it was established that the Port-Harcourt Refinery is 80% completed. Production of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) will commence before the end of the year.

It is yet to be seen whether organized labour will be able to put its division behind and proceed with the protests as planned. It is also being anticipated that the government could proceed to Court to get an injunction against organized labour stopping the protests.
Though the Department of State Services has appealed to labour to shelve its protests citing security concerns. Labour has responded promptly that there is no going back. As things stand right now, it is a matter of who blinks first.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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