- Nigerian labour unions on the sixth day of a paralysing strike to protest a 54 percent fuel price hike, on Saturday rejected a government offer of slightly lower prices and voted to continue with their action.
The leaders of the umbrella union, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who met in the capital Abuja, decided that the offer of 35 naira (US$ 0.27) to a litre of petrol was insufficient to halt current inflationary pressures. They insisted on 32 naira (US$ 0.25) a litre.
- What this means is that for now the strike is on, Adams Oshiomhole, NLC President, told reporters.
But he said the unions had given his leadership the mandate to be flexible in further negotiations with the government and even accept a price slightly higher than their current position as sufficient grounds to call of the strike.
The NLC called the nationwide strike, which has shut down government offices, banks, seaports and most businesses across Nigerian cities, after President Olusegun Obasanjo's government raised fuel prices on 20 June. The government said Nigeria should no longer have to spend US$ 2 billion a year on subsidising fuel that was already extremely cheap by international standards.
Labour leaders protested that the steep price increases for petrol, diesel and kerosene would only aggravate poverty among Nigeria's 120 million people, 70 percent of whom live on less than one dollar a day.
The country's two main oil unions had initially threatened to shut down oil exports - a crucial source of government revenue - to put pressure on Obasanjo, but said on Friday they were pleased with the progress of negotiations.
The blue-collar National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria (NUPENG) had begun pulling members off oil facilities but halted the action on Friday. NUPENG president Peter Akpatason said on Sunday members were still hopeful the impasse will be resolve over the weekend.
- If that fails by Monday, then we have to continue withdrawing our members from the oilfields, he told IRIN.
The white-collar Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, has given the government until Sunday to resolve the strike or face a walkout by members.
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