The organized Labor is adamant and insisting on going on strike over the hike in fuel price and electricity tariff even as the Federal Government is pleading for a change of heart as they meet in Abuja on Thursday.
This is the second time the Federal Government is meeting with the organized Labor with a view to averting the industrial action which the labor movement vowed to embark upon, to protest the recent increase in the prices of petrol and electricity.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha who is leading the FG team, comprising of the Minister of Labor and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Labor and Employment, Festus Keyamo; the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohamme;, the Minister of Power, Sale Mamman and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva.
Leaders from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) led their teams.
Dr. Ngige in his welcome remarks noted that the meeting will address the reasons behind the planned strike, assuring them that the government has no plan to make anyone go through hardship.
He said that they have received the ultimatum by the NLC for the strike, “and as a government, today’s meeting will try to arrest the situation”.
He promised that the meeting will be frank but have the general interest of the public.
The SGF in his response said that no government decision taken is intended to cause any harm to the workers.
He explained that he had the privilege of serving in the transition committee after President Buhari was first elected and that the report of that committee recommended the need for deregulation of the petroleum sector and energy sufficiency.
According to him, the government considered that decision as low hanging fruit to boost the economy, noting that the time was not ripe for it.
He, however, added that now it has become inevitable for the government to take the very painful decision, in the best interest of the country and the effects of the pandemic on the economy.
The SGF expressed concern with the organised Labour, saying he understands the hardship that certain decisions of government places on the people, but believe that within such decisions, are opportunities that as a nation, we can explore to help stabilize the system for while enduring the momentary pains.
Meanwhile, the NLC President, Ayuba Waba said that labor as usual always makes itself available for dialogue as strike is usually the last option.
He emphasized that the NLC is a pan Nigerian organization, with a remarkable sense of patriotism, insisting that the recent increase has eroded the little gains made with the passage of minimum wage.
The TUC president Quadri Olaniye notes that if there has been constructive engagement with Labor movement before now, some of the problems may have been solved.
He says 30,000 minimum wage was agreed last year, only to face an increase in electricity tariff, fuel price increase, VAT increase.
He disagreed with the Minister of Labor who says the country belongs to all of us, he says the country belongs to the political elites who always think of sacrificing the poor workers whenever there is economic drift.
He was of the opinion that the Federal Government has eroded the middle class, because of government policies, maintaining the stands of the TUC at the last meeting that the government should reverse its decisions first, and then invite the union for discussions.
The TUC President also asked the Minister of Labor to withdraw a statement he made during his remarks that the TUC did not address any letter to his office about any plan for the strike.