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Nigerian Unions Ponder Government Concessions Over Strike


The Nigerian government has offered concessions to the country's two main labor unions to head off a nationwide strike set for Wednesday. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja says the unions may arrive at a final decision on whether to strike later Tuesday.

Unions leaders have been huddled in long meetings with government representatives most of Tuesday in an effort to avert the strike planned for Wednesday.

The government has agreed to a pay rise and offered to reduce hikes in gasoline prices and the value added tax, but the unions are holding out for a complete reversal of recent price increases.

Peter Esele, head of the senior staff Trades Union Congress, who also leads one of Nigeria's two big oil unions, told VOA organized labor has not ruled out the possibility that the strike could be called off.

"As [of] this moment, I think we are still going ahead with the strike. But you never know, because negotiation is still ongoing by the minute, by the hour, by the second. We've made progress in the sense that initially, the government was not saying anything. But suddenly, since yesterday [Monday], after the press briefing when we read out what we are going to do, they suddenly came out with their proposal. On the part of the government, they've made some concessions. So, it is left for the appropriate organs to decide whether we will go ahead with the strike or not," he said.

More meeting are planned as the government steps up efforts to avert what could be a debilitating shutdown.

The Trades Union Congress and the junior staff Nigeria Labor Congress are expected to take a final decision on the strike late Tuesday.

Nigeria's oil output is down by 25 percent because of attacks by militants in the country's oil-rich Niger Delta. Union leaders say Wednesday's strike would be total and would affect oil exports.

Days before he left office on May 29, former president Olusegun Obasanjo increased gasoline prices by 15 percent, doubled the value-added tax and privatized two oil refineries.