Organized Labour Temporarily Halts Planned Indefinite Strike Following Government Agreement

The organized labour in Nigeria has decided to suspend its planned indefinite strike, initially called to protest nationwide hardships, for a period of 30 days. The strike, which was scheduled to commence on October 3, aimed to address concerns related to the removal of the petrol subsidy and the alleged disregard of a seven-point demand by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) by the government.

The decision to suspend the strike was made following a meeting between representatives of the government and the organized labour, where a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was jointly issued and signed. The accord outlines a temporary suspension of the strike to allow for the monitoring of the implementation of agreements reached during the negotiations.

According to the MoU, all parties commit to abide by the principles of social dialogue in future engagements. The NLC and TUC have agreed to suspend the planned indefinite nationwide strike for 30 days, starting from October 3, 2023. The document is set to be filed with the relevant court within one week as a consent judgment by the federal government.

Representatives of the government, including the Minister of Labour and Employment, Simon Lalong; the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; and the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, signed the MoU. On the labour side, NLC President Joe Ajaero, NLC General Secretary Emmanuel Ugboaja, TUC President Festus Osifo, and TUC Secretary General Nuhu Toro endorsed the agreement.

The MoU addresses the withdrawal of subsidy on the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), and key outcomes include a wage award of N35,000 for all federal government workers, beginning from September. Additionally, the federal government has agreed to suspend the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) on diesel for six months starting from October.

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Other measures outlined in the agreement include a N100 billion allocation for high-capacity Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses for mass transit, plans for a nationwide CNG conversion program, tax incentive measures for the private sector, and increased initiatives on subsidized distribution of fertilizers to farmers.

The agreement also touches on the leadership crisis within the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the purported proscription of the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN). The government commits to addressing these matters in line with relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions and Nigerian Labour Acts, with a resolution expected by or before October 13.

However, labour leaders emphasized that if the agreed-upon measures were not implemented, the possibility of revisiting the strike issue was not ruled out. The question of whether the agreements apply to states was addressed by Ajaero, stating that the fuel subsidy removal impacted all Nigerians, including those in the states and the private sector.

Earlier in the day, the Joint Action Front (JAF), a coalition of civil society organizations, had urged the labour unions to resist suspending the strike until the fuel price hike and university school fee increases were reversed. The group pledged solidarity with the labour movement, emphasizing that the current balance of force indicated that labour could achieve more if the general strike continued.

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