The Federal Government has been urged by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) to prevent the indefinite industrial action suggested by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).
On Wednesday, the NGO’s Lead Director, Eze Onyekpere, issued a statement with the recommendation.
It is not too late for the Federal Government to act in the public interest, according to Onyekpere, who said that the strike planned for October 2 by the workers unions could have been avoided with more considerate and humane engagement by the Federal Government in the post-petrol subsidy removal negotiations.
While Onyekpere did not downplay the significance of President Bola Tinubu’s policy reforms, especially the removal of fuel subsidies and the floatation of the Naira, he did say, “President Bola Ahmed Tinubu missed an opportunity to gain widespread support for his two main policy reforms — the fuel subsidy removal and the floatation of the Naira.
It was expected that President Tinubu would announce relief programs that would go hand in hand with these policy and reform announcements, and that these programs would be put into place either concurrently with or soon after the policy and reform announcements. The reverse has, alas, proven true.
For example, in a country where the minimum pay is $30 per month, the proposed salary rise for workers has been pending for three months with no resolution in sight. When compared to other African countries like Algeria, South Africa, and Morocco, where the minimum salary is $170, $242, and $360, respectively, this is a huge difference.
He said the NLC is worried that the government-appointed committee tasked with discussing worker protections has either deliberately delayed or forgotten to begin negotiations.
CSJ claimed that the Minister of Labor should not be the lead negotiator with organized labor because of the monetary stakes involved.
The President, the Vice President, or in their absence, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), should serve as the meeting’s chair when major political and financial decisions are being discussed at the highest levels. Onyekpere said that the team should comprise the ministers of labor, finance, and planning.
The NGO argues that the Minister of Finance should be the one to brief labor union representatives on the state of the government’s finances and make recommendations on policy, including salary increases, based on affordability.
Recent reports by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, and earlier reports by the Auditor General for the Federation revealed widespread oil theft and subsidy fraud, which CSJ argued warranted immediate action from the Federal Government.
As such, it urged the Federal Government to have serious talks with the NLC/TUC to avert the threatened strike and take steps to cushion the blow of the new policies on the Nigerian people.