The Federal Government yesterday told the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) that it remained committed to the full implementation of all agreements reached with them.
But government said in response to the 14-day ultimatum issued by the two labour groups, that it was not practicable to implement all the agreements in one fell swoop.
The NLC, in its own reaction to criticism of its threat to go on strike at the expiration of the ultimatum, said it does not necessarily enjoy embarking on strike and that it calls out workers only to correct the wrongs in the country.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said government had no intention of reneging on the contents of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the two labour organisations, and urged them to continue demonstrating restraint in their decisions and actions as the government keeps working to address the challenges currently faced by the nation.
The minister said that the government would continue leveraging on “the principles of social dialogue, valuing the input of our social partners, with the goal of creating a better Nigeria for all.”
She pledged the Tinubu administration’s commitment to honouring its “obligations to workers and the less privileged in Nigeria.
Her words: “We will ensure the complete implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we entered into with Organised Labour. Our word is our bond.
“I can confidently say that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration stands firmly with the people, and the President is tirelessly working to ensure that everything is done to address the needs and concerns of the nation.
“The N35,000 wage award agreed upon between the government and organised labour is currently being implemented.
“However, we have received complaints regarding non-implementation in some public sector organisations as well as the private sector.
“The Ministry is actively addressing these issues to ensure compliance across all sectors.
“The Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has intervened in the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) matter with the Lagos State Government.
“As a result, up to 80% of the agreement with the RTEAN management has been fulfilled, and ongoing efforts are in place to complete the remaining process.”
She also noted that the federal government recently inaugurated a 37-member tripartite committee to recommend a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers, “all in a bid to mitigate the hardship the Nigerian citizens are facing.”
Onyejeocha stated that in line with ongoing commitment to improving the welfare of Nigerians, “the government is actively implementing its plan to go green with the implementation of the Presidential CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) Initiative designed to alleviate the challenges arising from subsidy removal and transition Nigeria permanently to cheaper, safer and more reliable gas produced domestically for transport.
“Provisions have also been made for an initial 55,000 CNG conversion kits as part of the commencement of the auto gas conversion programme.
“Development of the state-of-the-art CNG conversion centres nationwide is also ongoing with the aim to deliver one million converted bi-fuel CNG/PMS vehicles to enable transporters and mass transit operators convert their vehicles that run on PMS to gas (which is forty to fifty percent cheaper than PMS).
“Additionally, the government, through the Ministry of Finance, is procuring up to 11,500 CNG vehicles, including buses and tricycles, that will be rolled out in fulfillment of the President’s promise by financing them at concessionary rate, even as production and assembly are ongoing locally and will be delivered in the next few months.”
The NLC and TUC had given government 14 days to implement the 16-point agreement reached with them on 2nd October, 2023, failing which they would go on strike.
We don’t enjoy going on strike, says NLC
Defending the position of the NLC yesterday, the Head of International Relations of the congress, Uchenna Ekwe, said it was wrong to assume that the body enjoys calling out its members on strike whenever it issues government an ultimatum.
The aim, according to him, is to call the attention of government to fulfill its promise.
“Let me make this clear, the NLC is actually never interested in a strike. We don’t want a strike; we want the right things to be done,” Ekwe said on Channels Television.
“Usually people see when NLC starts putting warning and if you notice the comments, people will say we don’t want a strike, it will disrupt.
“Before you see us issue a public ultimatum, there must have been many communications that are not meant public to the government system calling their attention to probably an agreement like in this case.”
He alleged that despite many reminders to government since the signing of the agreement in October, little has been done by government.
He lamented that some items out of the 16-point agreement have not received any attention and that the unions want them to be addressed.
The NLC Head of International Relations also dismissed insinuations that Labour is playing to the gallery and trying to use its influence to quell agitations and protests in the country over hardship.
He said that Labour had no reason to play to the gallery as it would be of no benefit to the workers and the Nigerian people.