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Nigeria's labour unions call for indefinite strike over high cost of living

FILE - Members of the Nigerian Labour Union protest against fuel price hikes and rising costs in Abuja, Nigeria, August 2, 2023

FILE - Members of the Nigerian Labour Union protest against fuel price hikes and rising costs in Abuja, Nigeria, August 2, 2023

Nigeria's two biggest workers' unions plan to start an indefinite strike next week to protest a cost-of-living crisis after the government scrapped a popular but costly petrol subsidy, union leaders said on Tuesday.

Unions have been pushing President Bola Tinubu to reverse his May decision to scrap the decades-old subsidy that had kept fuel prices low but was draining government finances. Prices have risen sharply, including the cost of food, transport and power as most businesses and households rely on petrol generators for electricity.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Nigeria, the biggest unions, said they would begin the strike on October 3.

"It's going to be a total shutdown...until government meets the demand of Nigerian workers, and in fact Nigerian masses," the union leaders said in a joint statement.

"The Federal government has refused to meaningfully engage and reach agreements with organized labor on critical issues of the consequences of the unfortunate hike in price of petrol which has unleashed massive suffering on Nigeria workers and masses."

The government had urged unions to continue negotiations instead of resorting to strikes, saying this would hurt an economy grappling with double-digit inflation, foreign currency shortages and low oil production.

Tinubu has defended his two biggest reforms — removal of the subsidy and foreign exchange controls — saying although this would lead to hardships in the short term, they were necessary to attract investment and boost government finances.

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