The Federal Government, on Sunday evening, said it was reviewing a long list of demands made by the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, the top of which is the upward review of the minimum wage.
This followed a two-hour meeting between the representatives of the Federal Government and the TUC at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Sunday’s meeting comes four days after talks between the government, TUC and Nigerian Labour Congress ended in a deadlock.
Dele Alake, who spoke on behalf of the Federal Government, said the meeting featured the consideration of a list of demands from the trade unions, amongst which was the upward review of the minimum wage due to what he described as a drastic fall in the purchasing power of Nigerian workers occasioned by the discontinuance of petroleum subsidy.
However, discussions would continue on Tuesday, he said, as the President plans to convene a tripartite committee comprising organised labour and the private sector to consider the specifics of the demands.
Alake said, “We can announce to the Nigerians that a lot of the items on the list are not impracticable. What we need to do is to study the numbers very well.
“And then we have asked the TUC to also give us a leeway to consult very exhaustively and reconvene on Tuesday, to actually look at the numbers, the viability, practicability of all the items that have been presented to us.
“Now, top priority on the list, which the government is also looking at very seriously and the President has announced before, is the issue of the minimum wage increase, which the labour movement has demanded, as a consequential impact of the removal of subsidy.”
On President Bola Tinubu’s response before Tuesday’s reconvening, Alake explained that “Mr President is most likely going to constitute a tripartite committee. That is the committee of the Federal Government and including the states and organised labour and the private sector.
“Now, this is a tripartite arrangement. It will be a committee that will study all the dynamics of a wage increase, the percentages and numbers, and the categories that will be affected.
“So by Tuesday, when we reconvene and meet with the TUC again, the labour movement, we should have very concrete items to present to the world. But the most important thing for today is that we are making appreciable progress with labour.”
Asked when the tripartite committee would be created, he said, “Very very soon. We’re going to meet Mr. President now, and we’re going to give him feedback on this. And he’s going to take an immediate decision.”
When challenged about rife allegations that the Federal Government was sidelining the NLC which had decided to embark on a nationwide strike this Wednesday, Alake argued that efforts were made to reach the labour union but no representatives showed up.
“We’re making efforts to reach NLC, we all agreed that we were going to meet here. But again, in this game, there are dynamics. Sometimes they could be meeting with their own executive and not be able to meet with us, or they could postpone, or they have not actually articulated their own list of demands as the TUC has done.
“We cannot second guess why they’re not here. But efforts are being made to reach them. We’re not isolating them,” he insisted.
The President of the TUC, Festus Osifo, said aside from the minimum wage increase, the union also demanded tax holidays for some categories of workers and revert to the old petrol pump price of N195/Litre while negotiations continue.
He explained, “In the meeting, we just concluded, we have detailed and marshalled out the list of our demands to them (FG).
“They also in turn told us that when they presented the items to us on Wednesday, we told them that we were going back to our principals. So they also need to touch base with Mr. President, so that we will reconvene this meeting again on Tuesday.
“We are hopeful that the demand that we have presented will be reviewed in the best interest of Nigerian workers.”
However, Osifo said the NLC’s absence is due to the Federal Government’s call for an “organ meeting,” not the entirety of organised labour
“When you call an organ meeting, an organ takes on a life of its own. So, the decision of your organ is what you’re expected to implement.
“So, all of us here today; we are agents of the National Executive Council of TUC. So the NEC made a decision and that decision is what we are trying to push through,” he said.