Civil servants in Nigeria have issued an ultimatum to the federal authorities to halt planned job cuts or risk a strike.  Nigeria's largest trade union has endorsed the threat of a strike.

The seven-day ultimatum issued by the Federal Civil Service Union expires this weekend. Union president Fidelis Edeh, says it expects the government to commence negotiations without delay or else a strike may be inevitable.

"We believe that the only way this can be addressed is that the government allows the platform, which is the joint council, to engage with the appropriate government agencies to take these issues on their merit based on the criteria already established," he said. "So the ultimatum is from Monday til Friday. By Friday we will be meeting again, the eight unions and ministry representatives, to find out whether the process has started. If it had not started then it is most likely we may proceed towards an industrial action."

About 33,000 out of 160,000 civil servants in Africa's most populous country will lose their jobs this year as part of a program of reforms.

The government says the reforms are intended to improve efficiency in the public service. But union officials say the government has failed to follow laid down procedure in the planned retrenchment.

Edeh is particularly worried that twice as many workers as announced by the government may lose their jobs in the next few months.

"At the end of the day, we may be dealing with over 60,000 within just a few months for the exit of this government. I cannot quite fathom the rationale for this and we are very worried and concerned about it," added Edeh.

Nigeria's largest trade union, the Nigeria Labor Congress, says it it will support a strike if no compromise is achieved. Labor Congress leader Adams Oshiomhole says the job cuts are not in the national interest.

Critics say the government's reforms have yet to translate into better conditions for Nigeria's 140 million people, most of whom live on less than $1 a day.