Labour puts unions on strike alert over fuel price increase
Organised Labour may be heading for a showdown with governors over its recommendation that the price petrol be raised from N162/litre to N408.5/litre.
On Wednesday last week, a committee set up by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) pushed for the immediate removal of petrol subsidy and recommended that the product be sold between N380/litre and N408.5/litre.
But, arising from its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting yesterday, the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) warned that any attempt by the government to increase the pump price of petroleum products would be met with stiff resistance.
The NEC meeting, which held virtually as most Labour leaders are at their various zones to attend the public hearing on the proposed constitution amendment, also deliberated on the crisis in Kaduna and the ongoing constitutional review.
Although the Federal Government has said the governors lacked the powers to fix the price of petrol, the congress insisted that it would not accept any price increase.
A labour leader, who was at yesterday’s meeting, told our reporter that Nigerians will resume its suspended strike of last year without notice.
The unionist said all the affiliate unions of the NLC have been put on notice, if the government does otherwise.
According to him, Labour rejected the recommendation that petrol be raised to N212/litre on Easter by the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari.
He said: “We are not in support of petrol increase. All these governors, they don’t mean well for Nigeria. They have over 100 aides. They are stealing money every day; it is only the common masses they want to continue to inflict pains on. It is not fair.
“We will reject it totally. We will not accept any increase. We don’t need any further ultimatum to respond, to re-activate and resume our suspended action. We don’t need to give anybody ultimatum again. If they go into that area, we will just resume our suspended action.
“We have issued directives that all our affiliate unions should start mobilising. As soon as they increase the price of petrol, we will down tools, withdraw all economic activities.
“We don’t need to negotiate with government or write them that we are coming to meet them because the last time we met before Easter, the GMD of the NNPC came that fuel will be N212 or N208 per liter because the landing cost was N198 and we told him to go back to the drawing board; to do as others are doing.
“We told him to go and repair our refineries. That was what brought our meeting to a deadlock. Remember that after two months, they announced plans to repair the Port Harcourt refinery for $1.8 billion.
Speaking on the face-off with the Kaduna State government, the labour leader said organised labour will not backdown on its request that the workers penciled for sack be paid their entitlements.
He said: “On Kaduna, you know how we have ended. There is a committee that is supposed to report back to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment between today and tomorrow.
“The meeting started today (yesterday) because the Head of Service said they normally have their meetings on Wednesday. But they have commenced their meeting. Whatever is the outcome, they will report back to Ministry of Labour and Employment and we are not going back.
“If Governor Nasir el-Rufai wants to downsize or rightsize because they don’t have resources, he should prepare the cheques of various staff he wants to lay off. He must follow due process. So, we are on it; we’re not relenting.”
“If we don’t allow it to remain on the Exclusive Legislative List, one governor can wake up and tell Labour, ‘I don’t have money to pay minimum wage, I will pay N5, 000. But, when it is on the exclusive list, there is a benchmark; you can’t come below, but you can go above.”
Another union leader expressed the congress, opposition to the proposed plan to reclassify the national minimum wage.
He said Congress insisted that minimum wage, pension and industrial relations remain in the Exclusive Legislative List to protect the interest of workers.
According to him, Labour’s position would be made known at the public hearing on the proposed constitution review.
The source said: “All our officers have been dispatched to present Labour’s position on the ongoing constitution review. We are not shaking on the issue of minimum wage, pension and industrial relations remaining in the Exclusive Legislative List.
“We are not shaking on it because it has a world standard. When a country domesticate an international convention, it is bound by it. It is not a local law that could be subjected to dropping it for the whims and caprices of legislators. That one we are clear about it.
“We equally have our doubts about the issue of state police because what El-Rufai used against us is state police. Those are the people they want to recruit – their thugs and then, they will now use them against their perceived opponents.
“They were talking about no salary, but when they recruit state police, are they not going to pay them? The issue of state police must be looked at carefully.”