October 2, 2023

NLC, TUC in talks over suspending strike

NLC, TUC in talks over suspending strike

Nigeria’s labour unions held talks on Monday on whether to suspend a strike planned this week after the government offered a wage hike and other measures to offset a sharp increase in the costs of living.

Since he came to office in May, President Bola Tinubu has ended a fuel subsidy and liberalised the naira currency in reforms officials say are painful but necessary to help revive Africa’s largest economy.

The measures have tripled fuel costs and inflation is now at 25 percent, prompting the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, to call for an indefinite strike from Tuesday.

After talks late on Sunday, the government offered a package, including a N35,000 ($45) a month pay increase for six months for federal employees, a temporary suspension of VAT on diesel and social security cash transfers to the poorest Nigerians.

Talks with govt

NLC and TUC representatives took the offer back to their membership for discussions on Monday to decide whether the strike would go ahead and were then set to resume talks with the government, a union spokesman said.

“We have just concluded the meeting with a mandate to the leadership to perfect its discussion with government,” NLC spokesman Benson Upah told AFP.

The government proposals also included the introduction of gas-powered buses for public transport as a way to bring down transport costs, one of the main complaints for Nigerians.

Government officials said they hoped the unions would call off the strike after the package of proposals.

“There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago,” Tinubu said in an earlier broadcast for the country’s independence day on Sunday.

“I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.”

NLC and TUC represent labour movements for industries from aviation workers and nurses to teachers and bankers.

Tinubu — a former Lagos governor elected in February in a tightly fought ballot — has vowed to bring in more investment and revive the economy.

He has named a new Central Bank chief, who analysts expect will take a more orthodox approach.

The fuel subsidy had been in place for decades and kept petrol prices artificially low in what was seen by many Nigerians as one of their benefits from the government.

But the measure cost the state billions annually because although Nigeria is a major petroleum producer, it imports most of its fuel needs because of a lack of refineries.

The NLC and TUC went on strike in August, with businesses, government offices and markets closed for a day in the capital Abuja. But the strike met with a more mixed response from businesses in the economic capital Lagos.