In a pivotal development on Monday night, organized labour in Nigeria announced the suspension of its planned nationwide indefinite strike, casting a cloud of uncertainty over the fate of state and local government workers who make up a significant portion of the civil service population.
The decision to suspend the strike came after a tripartite meeting involving the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and the Federal Government. This suspension, initially for 30 days, is intended to allow the government time to fulfill its promises outlined in a memorandum of understanding signed during the meeting.
The dispute that led to this labor action stems from the removal of fuel subsidies by the administration of President Bola Tinubu. This policy change has resulted in severe economic challenges, including soaring inflation and a high cost of living.
In response, the Federal Government announced a N5 billion palliative to each state and the Federal Capital Territory. However, organized labor considered this insufficient to alleviate the suffering of the masses.
Prior to the indefinite strike, there was a 2-day warning strike by the NLC, with the TUC initially opting out. However, the two groups later reconciled and were poised for the indefinite strike until the outcome of the Monday meeting.
The memorandum of understanding, signed by key Labour leaders and government representatives, includes several key points. Notably, it stipulates a wage award of N35,000 for all federal government workers starting in September. Additionally, a minimum wage committee will be formed within a month, the suspension of Value Added Tax (VAT) on Diesel for six months beginning October 2023, and a N100 billion allocation for high-capacity CNG buses for mass transit in Nigeria.
However, the memorandum only encourages state governments to implement wage awards for their workers, leaving a question mark over the fate of state and local government employees.
In response to this uncertainty, the NLC has urged state councils to engage with their state governments to secure wage awards and other relief measures. The NLC’s President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, emphasized the need to continue the struggle until victory is complete.
State labour leaders expressed concerns over the ability of some states to afford the N35,000 wage award, especially those that have struggled to meet the previous N30,000 minimum wage. They called for strong action and support from the national leadership of organized labor to ensure compliance by state governments.
In light of these developments, the Director-General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Wale Oyerinde, noted that the private sector had taken proactive steps to support employees amid the economic challenges. He expressed concern about how states and local governments would respond to the agreement reached with the federal government.
The future remains uncertain for state and local government workers as negotiations and actions unfold in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates on this critical issue affecting the Nigerian workforce.