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Nigerian Labor Unions Suspend Oil Strike


Nigeria's labor unions have suspended a four-day general strike after reaching a compromise with government late Saturday night. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports the announcement is a relief for millions of Nigerians who endured four grim days of a total shutdown.

Leaders of both the blue-collar Nigeria Labor Congress and the white-collar Trades Union Congress endorsed the agreement reached with government representatives. A presidency official, Taminu Yakubu, read the communiqué.

"The NLC/TUC general strike is suspended with effect from midnight 23rd June, 2007. All business premises, factories and public offices shall now resume normal operations. The 10 naira per liter increase in the price of kerosene and diesel is reversed. The 10 naira increase in the pump head price of petrol is reduced to five naira per liter. Consequently, petrol will now sell at 70 naira per liter," announced Yakubu.

Virtually all the demands of organized labor were granted, except the reversal of the 15 per cent hike in the pump price of petroleum products imposed on the country by former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Unions grudgingly accepted a five naira, about four U.S. cents, per liter increase, down from the previous 10 naira, or eight cents per liter.

The shutdown in the world's eighth largest oil exporter paralyzed economic activity. Nigeria is believed to have lost about $400 million per day during the four-day work stoppage.

The agreement says workers will not be penalized for joining the strike.

"No staff or worker shall face disciplinary action arising from their participation in the strike," added Yakubu.

Most Nigerian supported the strike because gasoline prices affect the cost of most basic goods.

Nigeria's four refineries have closed for months, forcing Africa's largest producer of crude oil to import petroleum products for domestic use.

The government justified the fuel price increase by pointing to rising world prices and the millions of dollars spent every year on subsidies.