Despite the ex-parte order restraining labour unions in Kwara State from proceeding on an industrial action, workers commenced a state-wide strike on Tuesday.
The state government had on Monday obtained a court order from the National Industrial Court in Akure to stop the union from embarking on a mass action over disagreements on the signing and implementation of a new minimum wage in the state.
D.K. Damulak granted the order in a suit filed by the Kwara State attorney general.
For nearly a year, the state government and labour unions have been in dispute over the insistence of the unions to apply the same minimum wage agreement for the state and local government workers.
Justifying their actions on Sobi FM, a local radio station, on Monday, the labour leaders insisted that the strike action was decided by the workers and can only be cancelled by the workers.
Issa Ore, the Chairperson of the National Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, said; “It is a decision of the workers and not ours. We don’t have any authority to call off the strike against their wish.”
When asked about the feasibility of their demands, the chairperson of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ezekiel Adegoke, stated that the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage is feasible if the state government is sincere.
“The government is not sincere. There is no way paying the minimum wage will affect the finances of the state.”
Mr Adegoke added that the Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq-led administration has been sabotaging the interest of the workers by excluding the labour leaders from the Joint Action Committee (JAC).
Meanwhile, the state government has remained defiant in its position, calling civil servants to resume back to their duty posts.
“Civil Servants are therefore to resume normal work at their respective places of work in full compliance with the Covid 19 protocol as established by the NCDC for daily schedule. Adequate security arrangement has been made to guarantee the safety of all.”
“We passionately appeal to Labour Unions to continue to dialogue with the Government to reach an acceptable agreement on the new minimum wage. Civil Servants are reminded of the provisions of the Public Service Rule,” Kwara State Head of Service, Susan Modupe Oluwole noted in a statement.
Kwara Assembly wades in
On Monday evening, the Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly, Yakubu Danladi-Salihu, and principal officers and members of the House met with the striking labour leaders behind closed doors.
According to the speaker’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Sheriff, Mr Danladi-Salihu appealed to the organized labour to halt the strike action and reiterated the commitment of the 9th Kwara legislature to the implementation of the minimum wage.
“This government has so far been highly sensitive to the plights of the State’s workforce, the prompt payment of full monthly salaries of workers suffice to our respect and concern for the welfare of labour and we shall continue to uphold it,” the statement issued after the meeting read.
He added that “Schools are just resuming after months of closure as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and it will not be fair locking the children out again on the account of this strike action. I therefore urge you to halt the strike action, while we explore dialogue to resolve the issues”.
The lawmaker, however, cautioned the organised labour in the state to not allow hijack of their actions for political reasons.
The Deputy Speaker, Adetiba Olarewaju, in his submission, implored the labour leaders to embrace resolution of the minimum wage issues, noting that the door of the 9th Assembly is always open to protesters and suggestions of the labour unions.
The Vice Chairperson of the Nigerian Labour Congress in Kwara State, Murtala Saheed, in his reaction, said the lawmakers’ message would be delivered to the congress.