Labour unions in Nigeria have instigated an indefinite strike in response to the high cost of living caused by the government’s stringent economic measures.
The Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, two of the country’s leading labour unions, have criticised these measures as ill-timed, hasty, and anti-poor, with no consideration given to the impact on workers and the general population.
Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, implemented several economic policies aimed at reviving the country’s struggling economy and averting a looming crisis. Among these policies are the controversial subsidy removal and the introduction of a new foreign exchange regime. However, the unions argue that these measures have resulted in skyrocketing prices, exacerbating the already high inflation rates experienced in the country over the past two decades.
In a statement, the NLC expressed concerns about the harsh impact of the government’s policies on ordinary citizens, stating that “every family feels the fang of the harsh policies of government which had resulted in the astronomical increase in transportation, food, goods and services, tuition fees, rising cost of accessing quality health care, just to name a few.” This situation, they argue, has made it extremely difficult for workers and Nigerians in general to make ends meet and maintain a decent standard of living.
To address these concerns, President Bola Tinubu established the Presidential Steering Committee and several sub-committees on June 19, tasked with discussing the framework for implementing palliative measures. The government made a commitment to restructure the engagement process with organised labour on these palliatives. However, the eight-week timeframe that was set for the conclusion of these discussions expired in August, with no substantial progress made.
In response to the government’s inaction, the labour unions decided to take action by initiating an indefinite strike. The aim of the strike is to put pressure on the government to address the high cost of living and provide relief to workers and Nigerians who have been severely affected by the economic measures. The unions argue that the government’s failure to take timely action demonstrates a lack of empathy and concern for the welfare of its citizens.
The impact of the strike has been felt across various sectors of the economy, with businesses and government institutions experiencing disruptions in their operations. The strike has also garnered significant public support, with many citizens expressing solidarity with the labour unions’ demands for a better standard of living.
The situation in Nigeria highlights the growing discontent among workers and citizens over the government’s economic policies. The cost of living continues to rise, making it increasingly difficult for ordinary Nigerians to sustain themselves and their families. The labour unions play a crucial role in advocating for the rights and welfare of workers, and their actions reflect the urgency and seriousness of the current crisis.
The assigned committees were given a period of eight weeks to complete their task and speed up the implementation of the framework aimed at mitigating the impact of petrol subsidy removal on Nigerians. However, even after the allocated time frame elapsed, the sub-committees have yet to convene or fulfil their mandates, leading to frustration among the leadership of both the NLC and TUC.
The labour unions have accused the government of lacking sincerity in implementing the measures announced to assist Nigerians during these difficult times. These measures included an increase in minimum wage and salaries, the procurement of CNG powered buses for an affordable transit scheme, and providing conditional cash transfers to vulnerable citizens, among others. In a previous meeting, labour unions had given the government an eight-week deadline for implementation.
Furthermore, the Nigeria Labour Congress has criticised the Federal Government for delaying negotiations on post-subsidy palliatives for workers four months after removing fuel subsidies. This delay has worsened hardships across the country.
In light of these developments, earlier this month, labour unions conducted a two-day warning strike as a prelude to an indefinite strike in order to assert their demands.
Following expiration of a 21-day ultimatum last Friday, both Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress have announced an indefinite strike set to commence on October 3rd, 2023.
Following separate Emergency National Executive Council meetings, NLC president Joe Ajaero and TUC president Festus Osifo have released a joint communique in which they announced an indefinite strike. The decision was made in response to what they perceive as the government’s insensitivity towards the suffering of Nigerians caused by the removal of petrol subsidy. The unions also expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of initiative and urged their state chapters to organise protests nationwide.
In an attempt to avert the strike, Minister of Labour and Employment Simon Lalong has pleaded with the NLC leadership to reconsider their plans. He stressed that maintaining industrial harmony is crucial for a nation’s socio-economic development and called for collaboration between the Union and the Federal Government in driving progress. He assured them that addressing their concerns is a top priority for the government.