• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Ajaero insists strike will hold, denies calling it off

Femi Gbajabiamila

The Federal Government has again appealed to the organised labour to cancel the proposed protests starting from Wednesday, saying that government is doing everything to ensure that the hardship occasioned by the petrol subsidy removal is sorted out.

The organised labour however, said that the palliatives rolled out by the President in his nationwide broadcast on Monday night is very insignificant to cushion the effect of sufferings in the country.

This is as Joe Ajaero, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was conspicuously absent at the meeting.

Read also: The nationwide strike will start tomorrow-NLC

The NLC specifically said it was going on with the proposed national protest on Wednesday.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Presidential Steering Committee on Palliatives held at the State House, Abuja, Femi Gbajabiamila, chief of staff to the president, appealed to the organised labour to suspend the planned protest.

He said, “We have laid out the plans, the interventions of Mr. President, as you all heard in his broadcast yesterday, we made it clear that this was just Mr. President’s initial rollout and interventions and that conversations will be ongoing as we go along.

“And we appealed to Labour, we did appeal to labour to call off the protests for tomorrow. We found listening ears here and they did agree that they all accepted that Mr. President’s broadcast was a welcome development and that they will go back home to talk to the other leaders that are not present today. So we’re hopeful that they will do the right thing and call off the strike tomorrow.”

Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting, the TUC President, Festus Osifo said, “We told Nigerians that we’ll be meeting today by 12 noon, so we came here much later. We had the conversation, and again the government team told us that what the President has put on the table is more or less like a starting point, and it’s a baseline.

“So we on our path also said yes, that we would have been surprised if that is everything that will be put forward because for us we felt that there are some gaps. For us, we felt that the President has said that 1 trillion Naira has been saved in the last two months that what has been proposed is not far-reaching.

“And for us, you know, as part of the principle of negotiations, when anything is put on the table, you accept, but you push for more. So, on our path, we said that what has been put on the table is not sufficient, it’s not enough, and that they can do more.

“So part of what we put forward was that, we will look at those things that the President highlighted. We think, for example, that 3000 buses are not sufficient, we think it is not sufficient. By the time you divide 3000 by 37, you can see how many they can come up to so it’s not sufficient, it’s grossly inadequate.

“We also think that some of the measures put on the table are not far-reaching. So we are also going to demand for what we think will do, so if we think 30,000 buses could do it or 40,000 buses could do it in the immediate.

“Yes, we’ll push it forward. So those were all the conversations that we had. Then on the government part, they also appealed that we should shelve the protests. Our response was that we are going to go back this evening and also have a conversation around that and you will hear from us at the end of that conversation.

Asked the position of labour on minimum wage increase, Osifo said, “On our part, what we’re demanding was wage award. So for example, you’ve heard some states that have said we’re paying 40,000 minimum wage, so it’s more or less they are giving it. It is not the law, they are doing above the minimum wage. So for us we felt that the federal government could do on their own do above the minimum wage, without much conversation, because the Committee on the minimum wage has not been constituted.

Read also: NLC Strike: Labour reconsiders its planned protests

“The Committee on the minimum wage has not been constituted. But what we have been advocating for on the part of labour is wage award that doesn’t have what bureaucracies, that doesn’t have much issues around the law, because the law that prescribed minimum wage said five years.

“Until you are amend that, no other thing can kick in. But we said for the immediate, let government come out just as some state government has announced that we’re paying N40,000. Some say N50,000 So they should do something like that.

“We have also heard some state as well come in and say that they are going to pay PMS allowance of XYZ amount. So those are the wage awards that we are thinking and we are pushing governments to do. What they have proposed like you have heard the President say yesterday, for us, we are taking that as a baseline. We believe strongly that the President, the state governments should do more.”

On his part the Deputy President of NLC, Titus Amba when asked whether the proposed Wednesday’s protest will still hold he answered in the affirmative.

He told journalists, “We’re on the same page, just the way the TUC National President did mention. Yeah, we met today, and we discussed based on what we all left yesterday, with the mind of coming back today. After the president’s speech, we all listened to the President’s speech with an appeal that time should be given to this very government.

“And we sat down and we analysed it very, very well. And we came up with some issues, which I believe you heard it from the TUC President where he said the president of this country did mention that within two months, the government of Nigeria was able to at least save a trillion naira.

“And to the ordinary Nigerian out there, he will conclude that there are a lot of funds kept because of this subsidy issue. So why can’t this monies be made available so that it can cushion the suffering and yearning of all Nigerians. So these were some of the things that we discussed.

“We also said that the 3000 buses proposed to be made available are not sufficient. If you divide by the number of states that we have, it won’t take us anywhere. So, the government came with an appeal of shifting the intended protest tomorrow. ”

On the plea for the suspension of the protest, he said, “We said no, it is not something that we can discuss here, because we have other organs of the union that we have to go back to for them to look at it critically, because the truth is that every Nigerian out there is boiling out there and waiting to see what will come out of this very meeting.

“And we had to go back and maybe make a presentation to them that this is what government have said and this is what we’re thinking how we should go about it. So this is the decision that we have now.”

Asked as it stands if the protest still stand, he simply said, “Yes, of course.”

On the absence of the NLC President, Comrade Amba said, “He is indisposed to be sincere.”