Labour kicks as FG slashes budgetary provision for wage award by N100bn

Labour unions, on Wednesday, lambasted the Federal Government for slashing the supplementary budgetary allocation for wage awards to federal civil servants by N100bn, warning that this was not the agreement they had with the government.

Data obtained from the newly Revised 2023 Supplementary Budget, indicated that the government swapped the controversial N5bn presidential yacht votes for Navy barges, increased the budget for defence from N476.54bn to N546.21bn and earmarked N20bn as capital supplementation for the National Intelligence Agency.

The PUNCH reports that the recently approved N2.1tn 2023 Supplementary Budget was marred with controversy following the discovery of seemingly extravagant items, forcing an amendment by the National Assembly.

In the proposed document, the four-month wage award was to cost the Federal Government around N210bn. However, the approved and newly revised document showed that it would now cost the Federal Government about N110bn.

Also in the revised budget, the Ministry of Defence budget rose from N476.54bn to N546.21bn, indicating an additional allocation of N69.67bn.

Under the ministry, the Nigerian Navy, which was earlier caught up in the controversial N5.095bn for the purchase of a presidential yacht, got an additional N25bn to its total allocation.

Its total allocation rose from N62.8bn in the proposed supplementary budget to N87.8bn in the approved document.

It also observed that the presidential yacht was replaced by the purchase of a self-propelled barge with the same amount of N5.095bn. Self-propelled barges are cargo-carrying vessels specifically engineered for operation on inland waterways.

The Nigerian Navy also got extra allocation for the construction of two buildings in Enugu and Ebonyi worth N3bn each.

About N19bn was also allocated for the purchase of two tugboats, which are used to pull or push other large ships for manoeuvring or salvage purposes.

The Defence Intelligence Agency got an extra N30bn to its total allocation, from N17.04bn in the proposed document to N47.04bn in the approved copy.

The PUNCH further observed that allocations to the Office of the National Security Adviser, headed by Nuhu Ribadu, increased by N20.3bn from N29.7bn to N50.02bn.

Similarly, the purchase of official vehicles for the office of the First Lady valued at N1.5bn remained in the budget, while the education loan fund for funding student loans was increased to N10bn from N5.5bn previously allotted.

Recall that the Federal Government, as part of steps to assuage labour unions, had granted a wage award of N35,000 to all Federal Government workers “beginning from September pending when a new national minimum wage is expected to have been signed into law.”

President Bola Tinubu had declared during his Independence Day speech that “low-grade workers” in the federal civil service would be awarded a wage of N25,000.

The amount was then increased to N35,000 following discussions with the organised labour unions. However, civil servants received a single payment of N35,000 for September only and not for two months as promised.

It is still unknown why the Federal Government decided to slash the allocation of wage awards for federal workers, but the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress warned that this would be resisted.

NLC, TUC warns govt

Commenting on the development, the Assistant General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress, Chris Onyeka, said the agreement was for the government to raise the wages of federal civil servants and not to reduce them.

He said, “Are you saying they cut down the wage awards by N100bn? Well, we have been talking about the high cost of governance and if they decided to reduce their bills by cutting down their numerous aides and assistants, that’s alright.

 “But if it is that they don’t want to pay workers what they are supposed to pay, then there is a problem. How can you subject workers to further reductions in their salaries? No way! We agreed to a wage award of N35,000 to all federal workers, so the wage award has to increase.”

Also speaking, the Head of Information, NLC, Benson Upah, said, “We were not informed before this was done. However, this behaviour is not inconsistent with the psychology of this government. It’s sad!”

The Trade Union Congress warned the Federal Government against playing games with the wage award for Nigerian workers.

The National Deputy President, TUC, Tommy Etim, said, “The government cannot play games with the wage award because it was an agreement reached with the organised labour and the instrument of agreement reached was deposited in the court.

“The government is the manager of funds and our business is to ensure compliance to the agreement is reached.”

Efforts to get the Presidency to speak on why the award was reduced were unsuccessful, as officials contacted at the villa could not provide any explanation at the time of filing this report.

Tinubu had during his Independence Day speech assured Nigerians that low-grade workers in the federal civil service would be awarded a provisional wage increase of N25,000 for the next six months.

The amount was then increased to N35,000 following discussions with organised labour organisations, as this led to an increase of the wage bill to N315bn.

The agreements made the organised labour suspend its proposed nationwide strike for 30 days, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government.

But the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, had added a caveat that the unions would revisit the agreement if the Federal Government failed to fulfil their demands.

The PUNCH had reported that civil servants under the Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure received a single payment of N35,000 for September only and not for two months as promised.

“Yes, I did receive it. I saw the alert about 15 minutes ago. I think it is for September because the alert indicated September,” a civil servant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had confirmed last month.

Another civil servant had said, “Yes, I have seen mine too but we are expecting to see another alert because the President said it would start from September. So maybe another one will come, which will read October.”

 With the accelerating inflation rate in Nigeria, workers had urged the Federal Government to give them fair compensation at the time it planned to review the minimum wage in Nigeria.

Workers, who spoke to The PUNCH, lamented that the escalating inflationary pressures were taking a serious toll on their finances, eroding their purchasing power.

A civil servant, who identified himself as Opeyemi, said the economic situation was becoming unbearable because most of the prices of food in the market had increased.

He claimed the amount he spent weekly on transport fares to the office had tripled.

He noted that though the Lagos State Government had promised some palliatives, he was not sure if other workers in other states were receiving that also.

(Punch)

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Jubilation in BUK as Organised Labour suspends industrial strike

Some students of Bayero University, Kano on Wednesday night took to the streets within the university to celebrate the decision of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to suspend the nationwide strike.

The PUNCH reports that the university management on Tuesday suspended the ongoing 2022/2023 first-semester examinations and all other academic activities till further notice.

The suspension of the examinations followed the nationwide strike embarked upon by NLC and TUC and the subsequent decision by the university unions to join the strike.

One of the students told The PUNCH in a telephone interview that the students felt elated as a result of suspending the strike, and lauded the NLC and TUC for ending the strike.

“We also commend the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, for his intervention in the crisis,” the student said.

He said most of the students especially those who have yet to finish their examinations were happy about the suspension of the strike.

(Punch)

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Strike: We’ve shocked FG – Organised labour

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) have said that their decision to embark on a nationwide strike had come as a shock to the Federal Government.

National Vice President of TUC Tommy Etim disclosed this following the labour unions’ meeting with the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, on Wednesday.

He further revealed that NLC and TUC will hold a joint extraordinary national executive council meeting later today.

“We commend the steps taken so far by the NSA. He made us understand that he didn’t see the issue on the ground as a political fight.

“He also noted that two people have been arrested in line with the brutalisation of Ajaero.

“Initially, the government felt the strike would not hold. They were shocked to see that we went ahead with our threats.

“We are going to have an extraordinary joint NEC this evening by 7 pm and I can tell you there is hope,” he said.

DAILY POST earlier reported that the Minister of Labour, Simon Bako Lalong, and the Minister of State for Labour, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyeajeocha, met with the striking unions on Wednesday.

(Daily Post)

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FG meets labour leaders as nationwide strike begins today

The Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Simon Lalong, has convened a meeting with labour leaders as the nationwide strike begins.

Our correspondent learnt that leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress are expected at the meeting holding on Tuesday (today).

A source familiar with the matter disclosed this to our correspondent on Monday night.

“The minister has convened a meeting with the Labour leaders for Tuesday,”  the source simply said.

The labour unions had, on Monday, ordered their affiliates to withdraw their services nationwide from midnight on November 14, 2023.

TUC President, Festus Osifo, disclosed this while addressing journalists in Abuja..

Osifo said the strike would remain until “government at all levels wake up to their responsibility.”

The strike is also to protest the battering of the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and some other executives of the congress in Owerri, Imo State, on November 1, as well as the pending labour issues in Imo State.

Ajaero was arrested by the police ahead of a state-wide protest in Imo, as disclosed by the NLC’s Head of Information, Benson Upah.

Although the police denied arresting Ajaero, stating that he was merely taken into protective custody to prevent a mob attack, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, accused the labour leader of meddling in the political affairs of the state.

The NLC and TUC later wrote their affiliates such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, National Union of Electricity Employees, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics among others ahead of the nationwide strike.

The letter to the affiliates was jointly signed by the National Secretary, NLC, Emmanuel Ugboaja and the Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress, Nuhu Toro.

The letter read, “In furtherance to the decision of the Joint National Executive Council of NLC and TUC, all workers in Nigeria are hereby directed to withdraw their services effective 12 midnight today, November 13, 2023.

“Consequently, all affiliates and state councils of NLC/TUC are directed to issue circulars for maximum compliance and these circulars be made available to the National Secretariats or posted to the NEC and WC Whatsapp platforms.

“While we shall update you with developments as they unfold, do remain assured of our commitment to Nigerian workers and people.”

Meanwhile, the Presidency has described the planned strike as an attempt to blackmail the government.

The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, in a statement on Monday said the planned action is an abuse of privilege and one that contravenes a restraining order by the Industrial Court against the strike.

He noted that Ajaero’s assault in Imo though condemnable is a personal issue that shouldn’t force the whole country into punishment.

The statement read,  “This decision by the NLC and TUC other than being an ego-tripping move is clearly unwarranted. It is an attempt to blackmail the government by the leadership of the NLC.

“We are still at a loss as to why the NLC and TUC decided to punish a whole country of over 200million people over a personal matter involving the NLC President, Mr. Joe Ajaero, whose error of judgment led to assault on him in Owerri while he was planning to incite the workers in Imo State into a needless strike.

“While the Federal government does not condone any form of violence and assault on any citizen of Nigeria regardless of his or her social and economic status, it is on record that the Inspector General of Police has ordered an investigation into what happened to Ajaero while the Commissioner of Police in Imo State under whose watch the incident happened has been transferred out of the state.

“Calling out workers on a national strike over a personal issue of a labour leader despite a clear court order against any industrial action amounts to an abuse of privilege. Power at any level should never be used to settle personal scores. Rather, it should be used to promote collective progress and advance national interest.”

The statement added that the strike action is a sinister move to cause further hardship on the masses, noting that the labour movement should not be seen as one that shows disdain against the rule of law.

“Our national economy and social activities should not suffer because of the personal interest of any labour leader.

“This flagrant disobedience to a court order and lack of respect for the judiciary should not be what the organised Labour would champion.

“The labour movement has always been a champion of the rule of law and respect for the judiciary. It is a sad irony that the current labour leaders have shown disdain and utter disregard for the court orders.

“We reiterate that this strike action is illegal, immoral, unjustifiable and irresponsible. What the strike notice issued Monday night after official hours suggests is it’s designed for a sinister and hidden agenda to cause undue hardship and civil disturbance in our country. This is unacceptable,” it concluded.

(Punch)

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Proposed Strike: Respect court order, FG tells labour unions

The Federal Government has called on the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress to respect  court order and shelve the proposed strike.

The unions had after an extraordinary National Executive Council meeting on Tuesday in Abuja declared a total nationwide strike from November 14, 2023.

The unions based its decision on the  assault on the NLC National President, Joe Ajaero, in Imo State.

However, the Federal Government, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Minister of Justice filed an ex-parte application praying  the court to stop the unions from embarking on the planned strike.

In his ruling, the President of the Court, Justice Benedict Kanyip, cited Sections 17 and 19 of the National Industrial Court Act and ordered the unions to stop their nationwide strike.

But the labour leaders on Monday insisted on going on strike despite the court order.

In a statement on Monday night,
the Special Assistant Communication and Publicity to the AGF and Minister of Justice,  Kamarudeen Ogundele, told the union leaders that any action contrary to the court order would lead to contempt of court.

The statement read,  “We wish to remind the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress that there is a subsisting court order stopping the unions and their affiliates from embarking on the strike.

“The interim order was granted on November 10 by the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice B. B. Kanyip.

“The unions have been served the court order and, therefore, must surrender themselves to the authority of the court which is already seized with the facts of the case.

“Any action taken contrary to the order will be tantamount to contempt of court.

“We use this medium to urge the unions to respect the court order and adhere to the principle of the rule of law. There is no need to resort to self-help.

“We urge workers to report for duties and not to entertain any fear as their safety is guaranteed and will be protected within the ambit of law. “

(Punch)

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News of indefinite strike not true, says NLC

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has debunked reports making the rounds that it has embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike.

Online reports indicated that the union commenced its planned strike on Friday after its ultimatum to the federal government elapsed on Thursday.

DAILY POST reports that organised labour had threatened to shut down the country’s economy to protest against the government’s failure to meet its demands.

The union is asking the federal government to provide adequate palliatives that would cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy.

NLC previously embarked on a two-day warning strike on September 5 and 6, during which it issued a 14-day ultimatum.

Government’s efforts to quell the move for an indefinite strike have not yielded any fruit, as the union still insists that it would shut down the economy if its demands were not met.

While workers are waiting for further directives, online reports went viral on Friday suggesting that the union has commenced an indefinite strike.

When contacted by DAILY POST, NLC’s Head of Department for Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah, said “The report is not true.”

He enjoined the general public to disregard the viral report.

(Daily Post)

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FG meets labour Monday as NLC insists on Tuesday strike

In its desperate effort to avert the Nigeria Labour Congress’ warning strike scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Federal Government says it is ready to meet with the labour union on Monday.

However, the labour union said there was no going back on the two-day warning strike, even as it affirmed that it remained open to negotiations with the government despite breaking its previous promises.

Already, some state chapters of the NLC said they were ready to proceed with the strike, while some others said their executive committee would meet on Monday as a precursor to the strike.

The NLC had in a communiqué jointly signed by its President, Joe Ajaero, and National Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, on Friday said the decision to go on nationwide strike followed the failure of the President Bola Tinubu-led government to dialogue with organised labour on efforts to cushion the effects of the removal of petrol subsidy on the “poor masses”.

The union accused the Federal Government of abandoning negotiations and failing to implement some of the resolutions from previous engagements with the government.

The labour union listed no fewer than six grievances it had with the government, noting that its NEC resolved “to embark on a total and indefinite shutdown of the nation within 14 working days or 21 days from today (Friday) until steps are taken by the government to address the excruciating mass suffering and impoverishment being experienced around the country.”

On the other reasons for the strike, it accused the police of laying siege to the national headquarters of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, alleged violation of rights and privileges of workers and trade unions in Imo State, interference in trade union matters by the Abia State Government, proposed demolition  of houses by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, among others.

The organised labour had on August 2 staged a one-day protest on the economic hardship in the country, an action that grounded activities in many states and the FCT.

Following the declaration of the strike, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, told Sunday PUNCH in an interview on Saturday that the government would meet with leaders of the union to avert the looming strike.

He said in a telephone interview, “Definitely, we are hoping the warning strike can be averted. They are still engaged in discussions and have started to understand each other’s position more. They will meet again on Monday, but the gaps are being closed. You know the new minister just came in and has just begun to engage with the NLC. Going forward, you will see more expeditious engagement with the labour union. So far, tension has reduced but work is still in progress. By Monday, they will meet again and hopefully find an amicable resolution on the issue.”

On what the Federal Government plans to do concerning the 21-day strike scheduled to commence later in the month if the parties fail to reach an agreement, the minister expressed conviction that the matter would be resolved before then.

He stated, “This is why I said we are trying to find a common ground to avert the impending strike. Once this is achieved, the other one would have been taken care of.”

‘No going back’

Meanwhile, the NLC said on Saturday that the Federal Government had yet to meet with it since it announced the warning strike, noting however that it was ready for negotiation.

The Assistant National Secretary, Christopher Onyeka, said, “They didn’t invite us to any meeting, so there is no meeting between us and the government. They have not met with us and there is no official plan to meet with us.”

Asked if the union would honour an invitation to meet despite its accusation that the government had broken its promises three times, he stated, “The labour movement is a negotiation platform built around dialogue. We are not the ones who left the table; it’s the government that has been running away from the table.”

Asked further if there was anything the government could do to avert the Tuesday strike, Onyeka said, “Our demands are heavy; they are not what the government can meet between now and Tuesday. We are going on strike and this is a warning strike.

“This is to demonstrate to the government our determination, commitment and preparedness to embark on strike, so they would know that we mean business and we are prepared, committed to ensuring that the right things are done for Nigeria.  You don’t treat Nigerians with contempt or disregard them. They cannot treat Nigerians as if our desires and interests do not matter.

“Government is about the people and providing benefits for the interests and desires of Nigerians. It is not about the interests of those who are in government, so they should listen to us. They should listen to the position of Nigerians. As leaders, don’t just listen to foreign bodies, you listen to Nigerians.”

He called on Nigerians to continue to hold the government accountable. “If we don’t save this country, we may no longer have one,” he added.

(Punch)

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