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Subsidy removal: TUC, at Sunday’s parley with FG, demands wage increase, others

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As part of efforts to cushion the effects of petrol subsidy removal on workers and Nigerians, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Sunday night demanded wage increase for Nigerian workers across board from the Federal Government, reports Persecondnews.

Other demands include tax holiday for categories of people and a reversion to status quo ante as regards the current pump price of N500 and above by marketers while negotiations continue.

TUC made its position known at the reconvened meeting with the Federal Government held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Persecondnews reports that the umbrella workers union body, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), which had already threatened a nationwide strike from Wednesday, June 7, was, however, absent at the Sunday meeting, insisting that the government should revert to the previous petrol pump price as demanded by TUC.

TUC President, Mr Festus Osifo, told newsmen after the meeting “some progress’’ had been made, adding that the union would brief its members ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

Osifo, who was accompanied to the meeting by seven members, however, did not give details of their demands to the government.

“The demands are so long, they are so many and part of them is the demand for a review of the minimum wage. Today it is not a living wage as we all know. The value of the minimum wage since it was negotiated has plummeted to a very abysmal level as it is today.

“As will recall that we were all here on Wednesday last week and after the meeting, government gave us their position and told us the reason why they did what they did. But on our part, we did not agree with them.

“So, they presented some of the things they considered as palliatives to us that we should consider them in the meeting, but we told them no that we cannot consider them in that meeting that we are going back to call our respective organs.

“So we went back, called the NEC of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria on Friday and during the NEC meeting, the NEC of TUC decided that because we already told government as at Wednesday that we are taking their demands back, we want to go and look at them.

“We said we did not have the mandate to discuss the demands as at then. So, we went back, we called our meetings on Friday, we had extensive deliberations and our NEC now mandated us with some lists of demands, to come and meet with the government side today.

“Topmost in our demands was clearly stated, that for utmost good faith and in the interest of social dialogue, that they should revert to back the pump price while discussions continues.”

On why the NLC was absent at the meeting, Osifo explained: “Because when you call an organ meeting and organ takes a life of its own; the decision of your organ is what you are expected to implement. All of us here today are agents of NEC of TUC, the NEC of TUC took a decision and that decision is what we are trying to push through.”

Also addressing newsmen, a spokesman for the government’s team, Mr Dele Alake, said most of the demands are not impracticable, adding that they would be tabled before President Bola Tinubu while his decisions will be communicated to the labour leaders at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The most important and top priority on the list which the government is also looking at very seriously and the president has announced before is the issue of the minimum wage which the labour movement has demanded is the consequential impact of this removal of subsidy.

“So, government is look at that and Mr President is most likely going to constitute a tripartite committee, that is a committee of federal government, including the state and then the organized labour and the private sector.

“This is a tripartite arrangement and it will be a committee that will study all the dynamics of wage increase in percentages, the numbers and the categories that will be affected,’’ the former Lagos State Information Commissioner explained.

Asked if the meeting discussed Mr Bayo Onanuga’s accusation that the NLC was working for the Presidential Candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, the government spokesman said it was not an issue for deliberation at the meeting.

“No not at all; it has no relevance to the discussion on the concrete terms of the welfare of the workers. Our discussion was majorly on the welfare of workers and how to cushion the impact of this subsidy removal on workers. That is all and not on any political partisanship,’’ Alake said.

On NLC’s absence at the meeting, he said their absence might be due to their inability to finalize with the NEC of the union before Sunday’s meeting, promising that negotiations will continue with all labour unions and stakeholders on Tuesday.

“We are making efforts to reach NLC. We all agreed that we are going to meet here but again, in this game there are dynamics. Sometimes, they could be meeting with their own executives and not able to meet with us.

“But we cannot second guess why they are not here but efforts are being made to reach them, we are not isolating them at all,’’ Alake assured.

 

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