The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) following the failure to reach common ground with the Federal Government over the issue of national minimum wage said that it will no longer enter into any negotiation with the government on a minimum wage for workers.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on November 27, 2017 approved a 30 member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee comprising of government representatives, organized labour and private sector for negotiations on a new national minimum wage for workers.
All parties in the committee including government representatives collectively agreed to N30,000 after over one year of negotiations.
The government however announced N24,000 which reportedly caused the strike.
To make matters worse, the Nigerian Governors Forum few days ago however noted that it can only afford to pay N22,500.
Consequently, the NLC declared that workers would commence a nationwide strike on Tuesday as scheduled.
“The strike is going on. Nothing has changed. The strike will begin on Tuesday. That is the directive that has been given. It will be a total strike,” Mr. Peter Ozo-Eson, the General Secretary of the NLC, said (as seen on Punch).
He further noted that all trade unions including oil workers would join the strike. “All trade unions in the country have agreed to go on strike and we expect every union to go on strike from Tuesday.”
Justice Sanusi Kado, of the National Industrial Court in Abuja, had reportedly barred the unions from embarking on the Tuesday strike. But Ozo-Eson however noted that the NLC was not aware of the development as no court process was served.
“We are not aware of any court order and we have not received anything from the courts. We have not been put on notice and so we are not aware of any court order. We have given the required notice of strike; we have given the required time of notice and we will after the expiration of that notice proceed on strike unless the government does what it is expected before the strike begins.”
Ozo-Eson added that negotiations with the federal government have ended; adding that signing the report of the agreement is only what the NLC wants to do.
“Negotiations have ended. Yes, we have a meeting of the tripartite committee on Monday and we will attend as long as it is to sign the report of what has been agreed. We will sign that so that it can be submitted to the government. We will not change our position.”
The labour leaders on Sunday shunned a meeting called by the Federal Government as part of efforts to stop the looming nationwide strike.
The meeting was attended by some government officials and members of the organized private sector at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, and some permanent secretaries where present at the meeting held behind closed doors.
According to the SGF, there is need for a unanimous resolution at the meeting, something that was yet to be agreed to. He further added that 27 states were having difficulty in paying the current N18,000 minimum wage.
“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 said
Quoting President Buhari he said; “We yearn to go above basic social protection for Nigerian worker but also tie to the ability to pay, because I know that a lot of states are even having difficulty meeting the basic minimum wage”.
“I want to assure all of you that once the report is concluded and ready, I will personally ensure that Mr. President sign immediately on it,” he said.
“I assure you that the government is waiting for the report and will immediately set up processes required for implementation. Hopefully, their work would be concluded when they meet tomorrow (Monday) and append their signatures to the report,” SGF Mustapha who spoke at the meeting said.
“They will then transmit to me and I will seek an audience with the President to present it to him. The report will go through NEC, Council of State before a draft executive bill will be sent to NASS.
“I am awaiting the report of the committee. They will meet tomorrow (Monday) at 11am. Mustapha said ability to pay was critical in taking a decision on the minimum wage. He noted that a lot of states were still finding it difficult to pay the current minimum wage. He recalled that the Federal Government instituted bailouts for the purpose of helping the states to meet up.