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Federal Government Raises Wages After Meeting with Labor

In a significant development on Sunday, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced a provisional wage increase for all low-income workers, extending to all treasury-paid employees. This announcement came shortly after President Bola Tinubu’s initial declaration of a wage hike for a select category of federal workers for the next six months, made during his Independence Day address.

The revelation was made by Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chief of Staff to the President, following a marathon four-hour emergency meeting with leaders of the Organized Labour. The purpose of the meeting was to avert a looming indefinite nationwide strike declared by the organized labor unions, which included the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

The compromise reached during the meeting was seen as a significant breakthrough, potentially leading to the suspension of the planned strike slated to commence on Tuesday, as both the NLC and TUC intended to discuss the resolutions with their state chapters and affiliates on Monday.

During his Independence Day broadcast, President Tinubu initially announced a N25,000 provisional wage increase for a specific category of federal workers for the next six months. However, this led to widespread discussions and debates on social media platforms, with concerns raised about the wage increase only benefiting low-income workers. In response, Chief of Staff Gbajabiamila clarified that all categories of workers would receive the wage hike, stating, “There is nothing like low income, median income or high income.”

The labor unions reportedly rejected the initial N25,000 wage increment for low-grade workers and insisted that it should continue until a new minimum wage is approved. Unconfirmed sources from the meeting also indicated that the unions pushed for an upward revision of the wage increase to N35,000.

In response to the labor unions’ demands, the Federal Government agreed to raise the wage increment to N35,000. However, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mallam Mohammed Idris, emphasized that the issues in dispute could only be resolved when workers were at work, not during a strike.

As part of the resolutions, a sub-committee will be formed to work out the details of implementing government interventions aimed at cushioning the impact of fuel subsidy removal. Additionally, the government pledged to provide Compressed Natural Gas buses to ease public transportation difficulties due to the removal of fuel subsidies. VAT on diesel will be waived for the next six months, and the government will initiate payments of N75,000 to 15 million households over a three-month period from October to December 2023.

Representatives of the labor unions expressed optimism about the outcomes of the meeting and stated that they would present the agreements to their respective organs for further consultations. The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Governor Abdulrazak Abdulrahman of Kwara State, and Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State participated virtually in the meeting.

Despite earlier legal challenges and an injunction from the National Industrial Court restraining the unions from declaring a strike, the labor unions remained resolute in their plans to protest the government’s alleged failure to provide post-subsidy palliatives for workers and address economic hardships following the removal of fuel subsidies. The unions had called for the shutdown of critical facilities and infrastructure, including airports, seaports, electricity grids, and fuel supply across the country.

In a show of solidarity, various affiliate unions and branches of the NLC and TUC across states in Nigeria were mobilized for the strike. While some affiliates, like the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, confirmed their participation in the strike, others, like the National Union of Road Transport Workers, opted not to join the action.

The ongoing situation has generated significant tension in Nigeria, with stakeholders from various sectors expressing hope for a productive resolution and urging both the government and labor unions to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. As the country grapples with the challenges of subsidy removal and rising living costs, all eyes are on the outcome of negotiations between the Federal Government and organized labor.

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