June 19 meeting: Our priorities —NLC - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

June 19 meeting: Our priorities —NLC


Ahead of Monday’s rescheduled meeting between government and organized labour over petrol subsidy removal, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has said its priority is to get salary award to cushion the effects of the removal on workers, among others.

At the ongoing 111th Session of the International Labour Conference, ILC, in Geneva, Switzerland, NLC explained that salary award was different from the minimum wage negotiation which would come up next year.

Briefing Nigerian journalists at the Conference, President of NLC, Joe Ajaero, faulted state governors that are reducing working days in a week, warning that such ad-hoc measures would worsen the socioeconomic situations of the country.

According to him, “We had that agreement with them. The agreement we had with them is not minimum wage . The agreement we had with them is wage award and it must be understood clearly. 
Minimum wage will be due by early next year. And we will review minimum wage statutorily. 

“Now that they have taken action by removing subsidy without providing anything, that is why they are talking about minimum wage. And they (the federal and state governments) are talking at cross purposes. It is all important that people understand the concept when they use minimum wage wrongly or rightly. We have proposed to them a wage award, which could be implemented immediately without waiting for the statutory period for the minimum wage law or for it to expire. 

“What we are going to do and that is why I told is to look at the rate at which this wage award will be, whether it will be N100,000 or N20000. This will not stop the review of minimum wage by early next year. It is good we draw this demarcation . When they are making those proposals, they want to increase minimum wage they want to do this the ABC aspect of it to an average governor in Nigeria apart from few it will be the issue of any increase in salary is minimum wage. 

“There is wage award and there is minimum wage. Even early this year, the federal government to some of their workers, they gave them a kind of wage award of about 40 percent that has nothing to do with minimum wage. But it is to cushion the effects of the suffering effects of COVID-19 and others. 

“Now that we are having the effect of this subsidy removal, we will look at an award that will cushion it. In this country even in the 70s we had the Udoji award and others.  So, that is the purpose whatever we are going to come up with we will achieve, but not minimum wage.

“Why will you engage in minimum wage negotiations now because they remove subsidy. The ruling class especially the state governors have not abided with the minimum wage act and have not been able to convince anybody why they are not paying N30,000 minimum wage. They are the people who are pronouncing the salary increase.

 “Somebody that is still paying N18,000 when minimum wage is N30,000, if you increase it to N100,000, what will he pay? Some of them are trying to prove that they don't have any idea about the economy of the state. They are now saying there will be three working days and so on as a temporary measure. They  have reduced productivity in a country that is having economic shock, and you reducing the days of production.

 “What do you think will happened? The economy will not survive. You are telling a doctor to come to work for three days, you are telling a nurse to work for three days. And you are telling a teacher with the challenges we are having in schools to come for three days. All these things that you are seeing are ad-hoc measures that cannot provide any solution.

“Our meeting of Monday 19 is to give life to that agreement and have some technical committee to give life to it the implementation of that agreement. For over 30 years as much as I can remember, it had been the issue of increased in pump price of PMS, labour would protest, everybody would protest, the government would reduce the price by maybe N50 or N80. By the time they are reducing it with  N80 it is assumed that it is N80 subsidy. They would be harassing us that they are subsidizing it. 

“The next time when they are increasing it, they will increase with maybe N200 or N300 and not the same N80. Now the issue of subsidy became a reoccurring decimal. We have been asking ourselves, what do we do? Can't we do things differently? That was how we came up with a module of having a Compressed National Gas, CNG, based on the fact that Nigeria has a large natural gas deposits. 

“The study we found out especially the pilot study conducted in the Edo area where about 10,000 vehicles were converted to CNG shows and the report came out from the mouth of the former Minister of State Petroleum Timipre Sylva  that a liter of gas CNG will cost about N90. On the basis of that even Innoson motors came to address us and said he was going to produce vehicles that will have provision for CNG and PMS. So, if you don't want to buy PMS at N500 and above per liter, you buy CNG.

“ If you want to buy CNG at N90 per liter, buy it. But in the construction of the vehicles, you have a switch to whatever you want. If you switch to CNG, you use CNG. If you switch to PMS, you use PMS. It is now left for all Nigerians to determine the one that is our target.  At least the labour movement has been able to think outside the box to provide this alternative.”

Continuing, Ajaero declared that “We are not deceived because there is going to be a fight. The the powerful force behind PMS subsidy that had fought us all these years would make sure that CNG does not see the light. 

We did not even want to go into the politics of subsidy because we knew that as far as NLC is concerned, we do not know the people that are receiving the subsidy. We do not know people importing and exporting. So, it is exclusive to them. 

“But we have asked them to investigate the subsidy regime because it is not enough to say subsidy it is gone and we cover it up. Let us know those involved, let us know what they did or what they are doing. 

“In that agreement, there is the issue of having modular refineries. There are areas in Alkwa Ibom today where diesel sells about N300 or N400 from modular refinery there. While we buy diesel in Lagos and Abuja for N800, they buy at between N300 and N400. So, if you have all these modular refineries, it will bring down the cost. 

“And we have all insisted that the Warri and the Port Harcourt refineries that they have awarded contracts must be concluded as soon as possible. So if you have these options, things will go well but if you allow one individual to supply  PMS, it is going to be difficult. 

“One of the commonest ways for you to create high price is to create a artificial scarcity or monopoly. Everybody will be pursuing one product and the price of that product will go up. If there is no availability, you cannot have affordability and accessibility. I must tell you that the aspect of implementation is a battle that we must all engage.”

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