Tension between organised labour and the federal government on the vexed issue of removal of petroleum subsidy deepened on Wednesday with leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress rising from its National Working Committee, issuing a one-week notice to begin a nationwide industrial action on August 2. The leadership of the Trade Union Congress had on Tuesday
Tension between organised labour and the federal government on the vexed issue of removal of petroleum subsidy deepened on Wednesday with leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress rising from its National Working Committee, issuing a one-week notice to begin a nationwide industrial action on August 2. The leadership of the Trade Union Congress had on Tuesday given a two-week ultimatum to government to act.
Organised labour has declared its angst against the removal of fuel subsidy policy without corresponding proposals to cushion its effect on workers. Organised labour has now gone ahead to proclaim that it would no longer indulge government on the policy and has indeed demanded a reversal of the policy. Labour labelled some of Tinubu’s government policies as “anti-poor policies unleashed on Nigerians which have left workers and masses reeling and deeply impoverished”.
A communique issued at the end of its National Working Committee (NWC) meeting, signed by the NLC national President Joe Ajaero and the national secretary, Emmanuel Ogboaja on Wednesday, revealed the vexation of organised labour with current hardship going on in the country. Pointing an accusing finger to the government for treating Nigerians as slaves, with contempt, and with lack of respect.
Disagreement between the organised labour and federal government has been brewing since May 29th, when president Bola Ahmed Tinubu made the unexpected “subsidy is gone” declaration in his inauguration speech, which caused the price of fuel to skyrocket from N185 to N500. Reacting to the declaration, the labour union protested the unprecedented statement which jerked up the prices of commodities, including transportation in the country.
Sequel to the hardship the price increase had inflicted on Nigerians the NLC and its sister body, Trade Union Congress, threatened to embark on strike actions in June, a move that could not be materialised due to many factors including a restraining order from the National Industrial Court, barring the labour unions from embarking on industrial actions. Alternatively, the two labour unions met with government officials to find a common ground on how their members and the general masses would be relieved from the brunt the fuel subsidy has meted on them.
As a response to the labour union, the federal government set up a liaison committee to discuss palliatives and other provisions that will cushion the effect of subsidy removal on the masses, in which the government promised palliatives and an increase in the workers salary structure. However, the surprising increment of the fuel price fromN500 to N617, last week has woken the sleeping dog, making the unions openly express its dissatisfaction yet again on the matter.
According to the communique, the NLC said the government action can be interpreted as a declaration of war on Nigerians workers and masses without any care leaving them to the throes of hopelessness and helplessness.
The Labour union further accused the federal government of refusing “to protect Nigerians from the harsh Economic situation that its policies have inflicted on the people rather it has decided to insult the sensibilities of Nigerian masses by offering us N8,000 per family and offering themselves N70b.”
The NLC president and general secretary also knocked the government for abandoning the es committee which was created to smoothen the social dialogue between the government and workers organisations in the country, noting that the government took all the decisions related to subsidy matters unilaterally without consulting with them.
Due to that, they maintained that the government has continued to “treat Nigerians as Slaves and conquered people which it treats with impunity without any concern on the consequences adding that it has embarked on “an unholy mission of robbing the poor to pay the rich in Nigeria as typified by its continued frustration of the activation of the agreed alternatives to Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and new hike in prices of PMS to N617 per litre. 8. That the federal government has continued to promote the gang up of the ruling elite against Nigerian people and workers”, the communique partly reads.
The communique further stated that the labour union“ Observes that the federal government has continued to churn out without relenting policies designed to emasculate Nigerian workers and people via not just increases in PMS prices with its spiralling effect but also increases in VAT, increases in School fees across all Publicly owned Secondary and Tertiary institutions of learning that the NNPCL has turned itself into the forces of demand and supply and fixes the price of Petroleum products while mouthing deregulation. That Government’s conduct suggests it does not intend to commit itself to the MoU signed with NLC and TUC.
“That Nigerians are outraged and have been putting pressure on the NLC to lead them in protest against the increases in the pump price of PMS that the pressure has come to a breaking point and given Government’s Continued indifference to the plight of the poor, resolved that, It would not be party to the killing of poor Nigerian workers and masses.
The organised labour thereafter demanded for the “immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of the federal government including the recent hike in PMS price, Increase in Public School fees, the release of the 8 months withheld Salary of University lecturers and Workers and increase in VAT, “the immediate inauguration of the Presidential Steering Committee as agreed in the earlier consequential dialogues
To further intensify its demands, the workers organisation also called the civil society organisations and all Nigerians to be prepared for demonstration against the subsidy removal subsidy.
However, it will be recalled that several calls from the Labour Union in the past have ended up in futility as they were later called off at the dying minutes.