FG, TUC review agreements, union hails implementation progress

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By our correspondent

The Federal Government and the leadership of Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Thursday reviewed the progress reports of agreements reached between the FG and the organised labour on October 2nd,2023.

The meeting followed a press statement release on Wednesday by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, stating that substantial progress has been made in all the agreements reached and also after a joint inspection visit yesterday to the Port-Harcourt refinery by both by organised labour and the federal government.

The briefing which was at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, was held at the minister’s conference room, Federal Secretariat, Abuja.

Among those present at the meeting were the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Ismail Abubakar, Director of Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations, M A. Yusuf and other directors and departmental heads of the ministry.

On the side of the TUC, were its Secretary General, Nuhu Toro, its Vice President, Alakija Kayode,
Deputy President and two others.

During the review, the minister read each item on the memorandum of understanding among which were the payment of four out of six months wage award and the other arrears are being worked upon. The committee on minimum wage review, payment of outstanding salaries and wages of tertiary education workers in federal owned educational institutions, suspension of VAT on diesel, payment of N25,000 conditional cash transfer to 3,140,819 households including the pensioners.

While she said government has made huge financial commitment on the provision of CNG Buses and conversion Kits, she explained that procurement process was slowing down the launch but measures were already in place to fast track the process.

The minister explained that government has commenced series of engagements with relevant stakeholders on tax incentives, just as the leadership crises rocking NURTW and RTEAN has been settled.

Also among the progress made are the subsidized distribution of fertilizers to farmers across the country, government’s engagement with various state governments and the private sector on the issue of the implementation of wage award for their workers and plans to encourage MSEs in the country to create jobs and boost the economy.

Speaking on the inspection visit to the Port-Harcourt refinery by TUC and federal government delegation, the minister said reports by organised labour and government established that the Port-Harcourt refinery is 80% completed.

She explained that the old plant would begin with 54,000 barrels per day, which will produce 2 million litres of PMS and 2.2 million litres of diesel per day, while the new plant which is currently going through its last phase of completion would also begin production before the end of the year. The combined capacity of the two plants when fully on stream, would produce 10 million liters of PMS per day.

The Minister concluded by expressing government’s committed to social dialogue with the organised labour and other stakeholders towards achieving industrial peace and harmony, while prioritising workers welfare.

She further appealed to union leaders to see strike as the last option.

According to her, issuing of constant strike notice could send wrong signals to potential investors. This is not healthy for our business environment.

In their response, the leadership of TUC commended the government for the progress recorded so far in implementing a substantial part of the agreement, but differed with the government on some of the items.

They said, for instance, while the issue of RTEAN has been resolved, the NURTW has not been resolved.

“If the issue of President of the union has not been resolved, it suggests that the issue of NURTW as a whole has not been resolved.

“You have carefully done justice to the items, and we commend you and the FG, but we expect fulfillment of all the agreements”, said Nuhu Toro.

He said some of the items have not been fully implemented but from their own assessment, the government has achieved 50% implementation.

According Toro, 50% is a pass mark, but we urge you to do more. We know there are challenges and we are very optimistic that they could be addressed”.

While the minister disagreed with the 50% rating by the union, citing reasons, Comrade Toro said 50% is a good performance on the side of the government.

On his part, the Deputy President of TUC, Alakija Kayode, thanked the minister for her consistency with union leaders, appealed to her to back some of the grey areas with data to reconcile them.

He said: “We will appreciate if you back up the one on VAT with empirical data. You said you got the information from the office of the Finance Minister. So, we will appreciate if they could supply you with data on how they arrived at the information.

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