Labour may begin nationwide strike Monday, if…

There are strong indications that Organised Labour may begin a nationwide strike from Monday, June 3, over a new minimum wage.

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This is as the tripartite committee on a new national minimum wage, NNMW, reconvenes today, following abrupt adjournment due to labour’s walkout of last Tuesday’s meeting, where it accused government negotiators of unseriousness in the negotiation process.

Meanwhile, accusing fingers are pointing to the state governors of ganging up against the Federal Government to stall the ongoing negotiation.

Labour’s negotiating team had on Tuesday, for the second time in two weeks, walked out of the committee meeting after the Federal Government increased its offer marginally to N60,000 from the N57,000 it offered on Wednesday, May 22.

Labour, represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, had on May 15, walked out of the tripartite committee meeting after the government offered N48,000 and Organised Private Sector, OPS, offered N54,000, against its N615,000 demand.

Meeting reconvenes
However, in a letter reconvening the meeting, Ekpo Nta, member/Secretary of the committee on behalf of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, NSIWC, dated May 29, said: “You are respectfully invited to attend the 7th meeting of the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage which is scheduled as follows: Date: Friday, 31, May 2024

Venue: Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall, Nicon Luxury Hotel Plot 903, Tafawa Balewa Way Area 11, Garki, Abuja, Time: 10:00 am Prompt

Labour, represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, had on May 15, walked out of the tripartite committee meeting after the government offered N48,000 and Organised Private Sector, OPS, offered N54,000, against its N615,000 demand.

Meeting reconvenes

However, in a letter reconvening the meeting, Ekpo Nta, member/Secretary of the committee on behalf of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, NSIWC, dated May 29, said: “You are respectfully invited to attend the 7th meeting of the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage which is scheduled as follows: Date: Friday, 31, May 2024

Venue: Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall, Nicon Luxury Hotel Plot 903, Tafawa Balewa Way Area 11, Garki, Abuja, Time: 10:00 am Prompt

“The minutes of the 6′ meeting and the draft agenda for the 7” meeting wil be circulated in due course.

“Please note that the following ‘Zoom link’ has been provided for any member who indicates inability to be physically present to participate in the meeting.”

Labour mobilizes for strike
Organised labour sources, nonetheless, said that a nationwide strike might start on Monday, depending on the outcome of today’s meeting.

According to the sources, organised labour is already mobilizing for a strike from Monday, June 3.
A labour leader, who spoke to Vanguard anonymously, said: “The outcome of tomorrow’s (today) will determine our next line of action. If the meeting comes out fruitful, better for everyone.

“But should government’s team continue with its carefree attitude and disdain for workers’ welfare, nothing will stop us from going on strike from Monday. We are already mobilizing for the strike.

“Everyone knows that the one-month ultimatum we gave to the government to conclude negotiations on the new national minimum wage ends tomorrow (today). We have been patient amid the hardship and mass suffering inflicted on us by the government’s anti-poor policies.

“Besides that, the issue of the minimum wage is statutory. The old Minimum Wage Act ceased to exist since April 18. We had more than six months, at least, to work on a new minimum wage.

“But the government has not been serious with issues affecting workers. Well, Nigerians can bear us witness that we have been patient with this government. If the government knows what is good for it, let its negotiators come up with something reasonable to meet workers’ expectations, otherwise, strike will be inevitable from Monday.”

Govs gang-up
On alleged gang-up by governors, organised labour which appears not to be unaware of the gang-up, is already working on a series of industrial actions, including a total shutdown of nation’s economy to speed up the process.

According to a Presidency source, “the unwillingness of most of the state governors to commit to a reasonable new national minimum wage is putting pressure on the federal government to do the needful.

“Even though what labour is demanding is on the high side, the Federal Government is under pressure from the state governors not to give in to labour’s demand. They have been insisting that they do not have the resources to pay a high wage.

“You can see that they have been shunning the ongoing negotiations because they are afraid to come to the open to put forward their arguments. They cannot continue to shy away. We know there are challenges, we have to face it one way or the other. We must come up with a new national minimum wage. It is a law that we have to abide with.”

Reacting, one of the labour leaders in the negotiating team, told Vanguard that Labour was not ignorant of the antics of the state governors, but said the federal government had a fair share in whatever the governors were doing.

He said: “From the onset, the federal government created this problem by choosing governors that have breached the 2019 Minimum Wage Act as members of the tripartite committee, representing the governors.

“Check, none of the six governors in the committee is labour-friendly. They never fully implemented the N30,000 minimum wage. I remember that the NLC president raised the issue when their names were announced as members representing the governors in the tripartite committee on the new national minimum wage.

“As we speak, many of them have refused to pay the wage award to their workers as a temporary measure to cushion the effects of the removal of petrol subsidy. Even some of them that agreed to pay have not paid more than two or three months. In fact, some of them are paying a meagre N10,000 or N15,000.

“They cannot run away from the reality. Whatever economic challenge we face today, they created it. They are all receiving more money from the federation account as a result of the removal of fuel subsidies and the excessive taxation of the people, among other sources of funds, such as IGR. They have no excuse or reason not to pay.

“We have lined up a series of industrial actions, including shutting down the economy, to speed up the process. We are just waiting for the May 31 deadline we gave on May Day to take the next line of action.”

FG pleads labour’s understanding
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has appealed to organized labour to see reason with its offer.
The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who appealed yesterday, asked Labour to be considerate and patriotic in their demand in the ongoing negotiations.

She said the government had been consistent in taking steps to secure a fair and realistic wage for Nigeria workers but urged Labour to recognise that the nation’s economy is still on the path of recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic distress.

The minister said: “We appeal to organized labour and, indeed, other relevant stakeholders to be considerate and patriotic in their demands, recognizing that our economy is still recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic and other global economic shocks. “We are committed to putting the people first and ensuring that our economic policies benefit all Nigerians, not just a select few.
“The government remains dedicated to prioritizing the well-being of our citizens and urge all relevant parties to demonstrate patriotism and understanding, particularly during this critical period when President, Bola Tinubu is working diligently to revitalize the economy.

“We recognize that the economic challenges we face are complex and multi-faceted, and we require the collective effort of all stakeholders to overcome them.”

The minister noted that last Tuesday’s meeting with Labour was a significant step in the ongoing efforts to secure a fair and realistic wage for Nigerian workers.

“As a government, we recognise the importance of ensuring that our citizens receive a decent standard of living, and we are committed to making this a reality.

“After hours of intense negotiations, labour leaders took a recess to consult with other key stakeholders and have pledged to return to the negotiating table for further discussions today. We welcome this development and are optimistic that our continued engagement will yield a positive outcome.

“In light of the current economic conditions, we have made a concessionary move from N57,000 to N60,000. This increase is a demonstration of our willingness to listen to the concerns of labour and work towards a mutually beneficial agreement.

“We understand that the current economic landscape is challenging, and we are doing everything in our power to mitigate its effects on our citizens. This is the path this government has chosen to pursue, and we will not deviate or stray from the course.

“President Tinubu has been tireless in his efforts to revitalise the economy and improve the standard of living for all Nigerians. His commitment to creating jobs, stimulating economic growth, and reducing poverty is genuine, and we appeal to all to support him in this endeavour.

“As we move forward, we will continue to engage with organised labour and other stakeholders to ensure that our economic policies are inclusive and beneficial to all. We recognise that the times are challenging, but we are confident that with the collective effort of all Nigerians, we can overcome any obstacle and build a brighter future for ourselves and future generations

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