Minimum wage: Labour shuns parley with FG over strike

Published 7 hours ago

By Correspondents

Leaders of organised labour, yesterday, shunned a meeting convened by the Federal Government as part of last ditch efforts to avert the looming nationwide industrial action over the refusal of the government to endorse N30,000 as a new minimum wage. This is as various workers’ unions have declared support for the industrial action. The Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Associated Institutions; National Union of Electricity Employees; National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and National Union of Air Transport Employees directed their members in all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja to embark on total and indefinite strike from Tuesday.

They vowed to shut down the economy over government’s failure to implement the N30,000 new minimum wage. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) had directed all their affiliate unions to embark on an indefinite strike by Tuesday, November 6, 2018 if by that date, the Federal Government remained adamant on the issue. The Federal Government had, on Friday, obtained a court injunction directing the unions not to embark on the strike, but labour vowed that such a move couldn’t stop the workers’ struggle for a better wage. Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha had convened yesterday’s meeting to explore fresh avenues to halt the planned strike.

The meeting, which was expected to kick off at 6p.m., ran into a hitch as the leaders of organised labour were conspicuously absent. However, after a little delay, some government officials and members of the organised private sector met behind closed doors at the Office of the SGF. Among those present at the meeting were the SGF; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, and some permanent secretaries from the relevant ministries. In an opening remark, Mustapha disclosed that the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, which was set up by the Federal Government to work on the wage review, would be concluding its assignment today, adding that their report was being expected same day.

The Federal Government, Mustapha said, had not jettisoned the process, but was waiting for the report to enable it commence further processes that could lead to the signing of an agreement on the new minimum wage. According to him, the report would go through the National Economic Council (NEC) and the Council of State before a proposed legislation would be sent to the National Assembly on the issue. He said that as at Friday, what was remaining was for the committee to harmonise the figures, before submitting the report to President Muhammadu Buhari. The report will go through NEC, Council of State before a draft executive bill will be sent to National Assembly.

“I am awaiting the report of the committee. They will meet tomorrow (today) at 11a.m. “I assure you that government is waiting for the report and will immediately set up processes required for implementation. They will then transmit to me and I will seek an audience with the President to present it to him,” he said. Mustapha noted that the Federal Government was desirous of meeting the demand of labour, but was considering the ability to pay, adding that a lot of states were still battling to pay the current minimum wage. The SGF, who revealed that 27 states were having difficulty in paying the basic minimum wage that was agreed, stressed that he was not making any excuse for them.

His words: “Basically, the only outstanding issue that needs to be deal with is to harmonise the 5th chapter of the report and get the figures in for the purposes of submission to government. “The inaugural speech by Mr. President, they were very salient points that caused me to reflex on the work of this committee and one of it is that there is emphasis that the committee will, by consensual agreement, arrive at all their decision and I think that was very important.

“Mr. President went further to emphasise that the concern is not only for the welfare of the workers, but also every other thing should be taken on board as it affects the country’s economy. So, it is a balance of the welfare of the workforce with the effect of the new Minimum Wage and the economy. “He also underpinned his speech by emphasising the fact we aim to go above basic social protection for Nigerian workers, but also tied to the ability to pay, because I know that a lot of states are even having difficulty meeting the basic minimum wage.” Mr. Joe Ajaero, President, United Labour Congress (ULC) told NAN that members of the organised labour got the invitation to the meeting late. “But hopefully, we will be around for tomorrow’s (Monday) meeting by 11a.m.,” he said

. All efforts to get other members of the organised labour proved abortive. However, Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, gave the assurance that organised labour would be at the meeting today. According to him, they are not here today and they gave excuse why they are not here. “We also want to say that we do not support the state governments’ N22,500 proposal and we have also said so. “We also have our own figure and the Tripartite Committee meeting will look at it and the outcome of the Monday’s meeting will be a consensual, I am sure of that,” he said. Meanwhile, the various unions in aviation sector have called on their members to join the strike. A statement jointly issued yesterday by the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), said the notice also applied to all agencies and businesses involved in aviation. The unions advised aviation workers to be aware of the situation and, as such, adjust their businesses accordingly. According to the statement signed by Assistant General Secretary NUATE, Comrade Temenu Akinola; Secretary General, ANAP, Comrade Abdul Rasaq Sheidu; Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Comrade Frances Akinjola, and General Secretary, NAAPE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, the unions said in complying with labour centre’s decision, it was issuing the notice to all workers in the aviation sector to withdraw all services from 00:00 hours of November 6, 2018.

“The general public, especially international travelling public, are equally notified to avoid or cancel plans to utilise aviation services within the period of the strike. “For emphasis, all workers must comply with this directive as our unions would not tolerate any sabotage of the strike action,” the statement noted. Organised labour had, last week, insisted on embarking on the nationwide strike over the non-implementation of N30,000 as the new national minimum wage. The state governors have offered N22,500 as new minimum wage which the labour has rejected. The decision came despite a ruling by the National Industrial Court in Abuja to halt the strike slated for tomorrow.

In a communiqué issued in Lagos after their National Working Committee meeting, the President, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the leadership of the frontline labour bodies, NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) had resolved to embark on the strike until the Federal Government agrees to their request to pay civil servants N30,000 as minimum wage. He also reminded Nigerians to stockpile food and all necessities at home as the strike will ground all socio-economic activities in the country. Wabba, who read the communiqué of the meeting, advised affiliate members of the three centres to commence preparation to ensure the strike was effective. According to him, the members should be steadfast and dedicated to achieve their objective, as workers would never receive improved welfare except through struggle. Ajaero said that labour would continue to meet and negotiate with the government until midnight of the expiration of the strike.

He, however, said that the labour body had not received any court injunction to stop the strike contrary to any report. Corroborating him, TUC President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, also said the door of organised labour remained open for discussions. In a related development, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has assured motorists that it has adequate petroleum products that will serve the nation, irrespective of the proposed strike by the organised labour. The corporation gave the assurance in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, in Abuja on Sunday. “The corporation has 39-day petroleum products sufficiency and about 25 days products availability on land.

“Motorists and other consumers of petroleum products are assured of adequate stock to meet their energy needs,” he said. Ughamadu further dispelled insinuations of any impending petroleum products scarcity in the country. He said that providing information on the petroleum products stock level became imperative to dispel suggestions that the threat of strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) would result in a slip into a round of products shortages across the country. Ughamadu advised motorists not to engage in panic buying as the corporation would do all it could to ensure the strike did not impact negatively on fuel distribution nationwide.

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