Fuel subsidy crisis: TUC goes for the jugular, demands N200, 000 minimum wage

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The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has said part of her demands presented to the federal government at the ongoing dialogue on the fuel subsidy removal is to increase the current minimum wage of N30, 000 to N200, 000.

According to a document containing the demands obtained Monday by Blueprint, the union said first and foremost, government must maintain status quo ante on the price of the petroleum.

The document which was jointly signed by Comrade Festus Osifo and Nuhu Toro as president and general secretary respectively, further said a representative of the state governors must be part of the agreement and governors must be party to implementation of the new wage.

It reads: “Status quo ante of PMS pump price should be maintained while discussion continues, Minimum wage should be increased from the current N30, 000 to N200, 000 before the end of June 2023 with consequential adjustment on Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), like feeding, transport, housing, etc. and a representative of state governors will be party to this communiqué and all the governors must commit to implement the new minimum wage.”

Other demands the Congress submitted to the government are “Tax holiday for employees both in government and private sector that earn less than N200,000 or 500USD monthly whichever is higher, PMS Allowance to be introduced for those earning between N200,000 to N500,000 or 500USD to 1,200USD whichever is higher, Exchange rate for retailing PMS in the country must be kept within a limit of +- 2% for the next ten (10) years where the fluctuation is more that 2%, the minimum wage will automatically increase at the same rate.” 

Similarly, the also demanded for the “setting up of intervention fund where government will be paying N10 per liter on all locally consumed PMS. The primary purpose of this fund is to solve perennial and protracted national issues in education, health and housing.

“A governance structure that will include labour, civil society and government will be put in place to manage the implementation; federal government should provide mass transit vehicles for all categories of the populace.

“State governments should immediately set up a subsidized transportation system to reduce the pressure on workers and students. The framework around this will be worked out, Immediate review of the National Health Insurance Scheme to cover more Nigerians and prevent out of stock of drugs and Visitation of the refineries that are currently undergoing rehabilitation to ascertain state of work and Setting up timeline for its completion.”

They further said: “The president should direct who ever will be labour minister to immediately constitute the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC). This platform will be used by government, Labour and employer to discuss issues and policies of government that may affect workers and all other mandate as specified in the law, Provision of subsidy directly for food items, the 800million dollars could be a first step and the existing National Housing Fund (NHF) should be made accessible to genuine workers; the framework on this must be discussed and agreed.”

In the medium term, the TUC “called for deployment of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) across the country in line with the earlier promise made by government. The framework and timeline will be developed and agreed by both parties. 

“Labour and government to design a framework that will be geared towards the reduction of cost of governance by 15% in 2024 and 30% by 2025.

“A framework should be immediately put in place to maintain the road and expand the rail networks across the country, Government must design a framework for social housing policy for workers through Rent to Own System,  the state of electricity in the country must be appraised and an action plan should be defined with time lines on how to get this fixed and that a strong monitoring team comprising of all parties will be constituted.”

Court halts planned strike

Meanwhile, the National Industrial Court (NIC) Monday granted an interim order restraining the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and TUC from proceeding on industrial action Wednesday over the unilateral removal of fuel subsidy.

Justice Olufunke Yemi Anuwe, who issued the order, also barred the two organisations from embarking on the strike, pending the determination of a suit brought before it by the federal government.

The court held that the interim order, as well as the substantive suit, be immediately served on both the NLC and the TUC, both cited as defendants/respondents in the suit marked: NICN/ABJ/158/2023, and  fixed the matter for hearing June 19.

The order followed an ex-parte application filed by the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Moving the motion, Mrs. Maimuna Lami Shiru, the federal government’s counsel who moved the application, maintained that the proposed strike action was capable of disrupting economic activities, the health sector and the educational sector.

She tendered Exhibits FGN 1, 2 and 3 which were notices from the NLC, TUC and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), to their members, asking them to withdraw their services with effect from Wednesday, June 7.

Ruling on the application, Justice Anuwe held that the court was empowered by section 7(b) of the NIC Act, 2006, with the exclusive jurisdiction in matters relating to the grant of any order to restrain any person or body from taking part in any strike, lockout or any industrial action.

The court also held that sections 16 and 19(a) of the NIC Act 2006 also empowered it to grant urgent interim reliefs.

The judge said the affidavit of urgency as well as the submission of the federal government’s lawyer showed “a scenario that may gravely affect the larger society and the well-being of the nation at large”.

“Counsel has pointed out that students of secondary schools nationwide, especially those writing WAEC exams nationwide, will be affected; the tertiary institutions who have only just resumed after a long ASUU strike will also be affected, not leaving the health sector, amongst other sectors; and above all, the economy of the nation.

“In my view, this is a situation of extreme urgency that will require the intervention of this court.”

In view of the above, Justice Anuwe, having therefore considered the totality of the application, ordered that: “The defendants/respondents are hereby restrained from embarking on the planned Industrial Action/or strike of any nature, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated 5th June 2023.

“It is ordered that the defendant/ respondents be immediately served with the originating processes in this suit, the motion on notice and the order of this court hereby made.

“The motion on notice is hereby fixed for hearing on 19th June 2023. Hearing notices to that effect shall be served on the defendants/respondents along with the other processes.”

NLC meets FG

The order came as the federal government and the NLC met Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja over the fuel subsidy removal.

NLC President Joe Ajaero is leading the Labour team to the meeting which commenced at about 5:51 pm. 

The federal government’s meeting with the Organised Labour last Wednesday went into a deadlock following the announcement of a new price template by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), a development the NLC described as an ambush. 

For a proper headway to be achieved, the NLC asked that the status quo remains and a return to the old pump price.

On the government’s side were former Edo state governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of NNPCL Mele Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon. James Faleke and  Permanent Secretary Ministry of Labour and Employment Kachollom Daju among others.

The government had Sunday held a similar meeting with the TUC during which it agreed to look into the workers’ demands and also continue the meeting today to iron out the grey areas.