Labour unions in Nigeria say they will commence a nationwide, indefinite strike from November 6 if the government does not meet their demands on minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
The president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, and that of the United Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, stated this in a press statement on Sunday.
The labour unions are angry at government’s stance on new minimum wage for workers. The federal government insists it could only increase the minimum wage from the current N18,000 to N24,000, claiming no amount was agreed with the labour leaders at a meeting of a tripartite committee also involving the private sector.
The unions, who initially demanded N50,000 mimimum wage, however, say N30,000 was agreed upon during the negotiation.
“It is also not true that the committee did not agree on a figure during its last sitting. We accepted N30,000 as a compromise to demonstrate the willingness of Nigerian workers to make sacrifices towards nation building,” the officials said.
Messrs Wabba and Ajaero said it has become necessary for the organised private sector “to speak up on this matter”.
“Keeping silent in the face of this apparent mischief does our nation no good. At this time, they do not have any other choice but to rise to the occasion by telling Nigerians what transpired in the meeting.
“What we are waiting for is for the federal government to immediately set in motion the necessary machinery for turning the agreement into a Bill for onward submission to the NASS where we expect the presidency to work together with the legislators to make it a law so that it can be implemented quickly.”
They said labour unions in Nigeria have not seen any sign of seriousness on the government’s part to resolve workers’ concerns
“There will be a day of national outrage and mourning which will be used to sensitise Nigerians on our plight and on the issues at stake. This shall take place in all states of the federation including Abuja on Tuesday, the 30th day of October, 2018,” they said.
They said Joint Central Working Committee (CWC) meetings of all the labour centres in Nigeria will hold to receive reports and make final preparations for an “ultimate engagement with the federal government on the matter on November 2”.
Messrs Wabba and Ajaero said the federal government is making conscious effort to “intimidate and cow the trade union movement and its leadership in a bid to subjugate the will of Nigerian workers over the national minimum wage”.
“The pronouncements of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) as it concerns trade union operations in the country are very unfortunate. We see it as another step down the road to fascism as this government continues to demonstrate high-handedness and rabid insensitivity to the plight of the citizens and any other opposing views.”
Messrs Wabba and Ajaero said Nigeria “is a nation where governments owe its workforce several months of unpaid salaries and never seek ways to eliminate this but prefer to seek ways to gag same workers from protesting this crime against them”.
“This is akin to beating a child and denying him the right to cry. Has the government considered “no pay, no work?” Has it considered criminalising non-payment of workers, salaries? Has it considered paying arrears of salaries with interests? Of course, it has not! They are only interested in “no work, no pay” Seekiing ways to constantly gag and put workers in a strait jacket has always been their pastime.”
The union leaders said the attempt of the government to supress and castrate trade union movement will not succeed just like the past administration failed.
“We are worried that instead of the minister of labour being more concerned with the welfare of Nigerian workers and making enabling laws that would guarantee safety and a dignified workplace, he is focused more on seeking ways of emasculating workers and their organisations.
“Imagine the governors forum that has six representatives in the tripartite committee jumping in to make excuses after its representatives had made their submissions in the committee. We shall consider any governor saying that he is unable to pay as unpatriotic and, an enemy of Nigerian workers and masses. We shall vote them out in 2019,” the duo said.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the unions had embarked on a nationwide strike on September 26 to compel the tripartite committee to complete its assignment on the new minimum wage.
The strike was subsequently suspended for the committee to reconvene. But its deliberations and outcome are now in dispute.
Experts have said the current minimum wage in light of economic fundamentals does not favour Nigerian workers. Since 2015, the pay became due for another review in line with the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act (amendment) 2011.