Subsidy Removal: Labor Moves Forward with Strike Mobilization

The planned two-day warning strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, will commence tomorrow, despite the Federal Government’s efforts to avert it. The NLC said it had not received any invitation for a meeting with the government as of yesterday, and that the strike was a response to the hardship faced by workers and citizens following the removal of fuel subsidy.

According to a senior NLC official who spoke to journalists, the strike was initiated by state councils and industrial unions, who demanded an immediate reversal of the subsidy removal. The official said the NLC was ready to engage with the government, but only if it showed sincerity and commitment to address the plight of the masses.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Orientation, Mohammed Idris Magaji, said the government was in dialogue with Labour over the issue. He said the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong, had a meeting with the NLC leaders on Saturday, and expressed optimism that the strike could be called off.

He said the government had provided palliatives through state governors and the Conditional Cash Transfer programme, to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal on the people. He said the government chose to channel the palliatives through state governors, regardless of their political affiliations, because they were closer to the grassroots.

He appealed to Labour to cooperate with the government in its efforts to reposition the economy and improve the welfare of Nigerians. He said the government would continue to engage with Labour to resolve the dispute amicably.

According to sources, the Federal Government’s failure to honour the agreements reached with Organised Labour at the beginning of subsidy removal was one of the main reasons for Labour’s decision to go on strike.

The NLC’s National Executive Council, NEC, which consists of all elected national officials and senior secretariat staff, presidents, secretaries and treasurers of affiliate industrial unions as well as chairmen, secretaries and treasurers of state councils, reportedly became very agitated after finding out that none of the committees, including the main one tasked with finding ways to mitigate the impact of subsidy removal, had convened since their establishment.

“The main committee (the Steering Committee) and the three sub-committees on Mass Transit, Energy and Compressed Natural Gas, CNG, were said to have not met for once while the federal and state governments are busy dishing out unsustainable, unrealisable and un-coordinated palliative measures that cannot assuage the hardships being inflicted on the majority of Nigerians especially workers and the poor masses by fuel subsidy removal and other perceived anti-poor policies,” a member at the meeting lamented.

Reports from the NEC meeting on Friday indicated that the state of the economy and the living conditions of the workers and retirees were the main concerns raised by the state councils and industrial unions under NLC. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the high inflation, scarcity and unaffordability of basic goods and services, especially food items. They also lamented the loss of jobs, irregular payment of salaries, arrears of wages and pensions, which have left them in despair and hopelessness

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