Nigeria’s main labour unions and the government on Monday set an eight-week timeline to finalise an agreement to raise the minimum wage to help cushion the effects of high fuel prices after the removal of a popular but costly petrol subsidy.
The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had threatened to strike after fuel prices tripled following President Bola Tinubu’s decision to scrap the controversial subsidy.
Talks with the unions are one of the first challenges the new administration faces as it pushes forward with a raft of economic reforms.
The parties agreed to set up work groups whose terms of reference will be agreed later on Tuesday with some expected to start submitting their reports next week.
“Both parties went through the list (of demands) and we ticked off the viable ones which are now broken into three categories; those that can be given immediate attention, those that can be achieved in the medium term, and long term,” Dele Alake, a presidential spokesman, said on Monday.
TUC President Festus Osifo said the process would be completed in eight weeks.
“Everything must be rolled out within that time, (it is) not something that we are going to leave endlessly,” he said.
The parties will reconvene on June 26.
Tinubu, who took office last month, is embarking on Nigeria’s biggest reforms in decades, seeking to tackle low growth, high debt burden, rising inflation and mounting insecurity in Africa’s largest economy.
He has promised to reset the economy which suffered two recessions in the last eight years, under his predecessor Muhammadu Buhari.
The subsidy was introduced in the 1970s to cushion the effect of rising global oil prices at the time.
In January 2012, a wave of strikes and protests known as Occupy Nigeria ensued when the government announced the end of the subsidy, with authorities eventually backtracking. Tinubu, then leader of the opposition, and Buhari, were among those who opposed the measure.