A week ahead of the deadline given by the organised labour for the implementation of the new national minimum wage, the Federal Government on Wednesday stepped up efforts to stave off a nationwide strike.
The government on Wednesday held two meetings with organised labour over workers’ threat to embark on an industrial action if the FG refused to accept their demand for a new minimum wage implementation by October 16, 2019. The organised labour had at a meeting on October 2 asked the government to accept its demand on the consequential salary adjustment arising from the new minimum wage or face industrial action.
But on Wednesday, the organised labour said it had begun mobilisation of workers for the nationwide strike. Also state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress expressed their readiness to join the strike, if the negotiation between the Federal Government and labour failed.
Before the organised labour met with the Federal Government on Wednesday, the General Secretary of Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Alade Lawal, during a meeting of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria in Abuja, said mobilisation of workers for a possible industrial action after October 16, 2019, had reached an advanced stage. But the Federal Government held two separate closed-door meetings with labour leaders on Wednesday. Both meetings were presided over by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.
Other present at the Wednesday meetings were the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed; Minister of State, Finance, Budget and Planning, Clement Agba; Minister of State for Labour, Mr Festus Keyamo, the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan; Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze; acting Chairman, National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta; and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris. The labour leaders at the meetings were Deputy President of the NLC, Amaechi Asogwuni; General Secretary of the union, Emmanuel Ugboaja; acting Chairman of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Achaver Simon; Secretary of the union, Alade Lawal; and representatives of the Trade Union Congress.
A statement signed by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, stated the government team met members of the JNPSNC and organised labour separately. “It was resolved that each group would hold further meetings to sort out all outstanding disagreements before a high level conclusive meeting to wrap up all discussions, paving the way for an equable implementation of the Consequential Adjustment of the Minimum Wage scheduled for Tuesday, October 15, 2019,” said the statement.
A source told one of our correspondents that the meetings were called to douse the tension created by the notice given by the workers’ union on a possible industrial action.
He said, “The purpose is to address the threat of labour and how the FG and labour can reach an amicable solution over the new minimum wage of N30,000. It is a closed-door meeting so only the government representatives and the union leaders are involved.”
The source said Ngige would meet members of the old committee that negotiated with the organised labour before negotiations collapsed.
FG has not implemented wage increase – Workers
Speaking at the ASCSN meeting in Abuja, Alade Lawal said that organised labour would not allow the FG to use what he described as divide and rule tactic to create division among workers.
He berated the FG for going public to announce that it had begun payment of the new minimum wage to workers at level one to six, noting that it was a ploy to gain cheap public sympathy on the issue and portray other categories of workers as greedy and inconsiderate.
He said, “As far as I am concerned, nothing has been implemented. What are they implementing? We are negotiating something and somebody went behind to start issuing one circular.
“As far as we are concerned, nothing has been done, and if you want to look at it, level one to three has been outsourced, how many people are there, so when you even look at the circular, it’s full of errors; as far as we are concerned, no circular has been issued.
“Look at this scenario, you have a salary structure, you have a ratio between the minimum and the maximum, when the minimum was N18,000, you have what you have at the maximum, then you have tilted the minimum to N30,000, are you going to leave the table there?
“It’s distortion, you don’t allow distortion and it’s not allowed anywhere in the world, and that is why you do consequential adjustment.
Strike starts anytime from October 17 – Labour
“Anytime from October 17, 2019, the leadership of labour will give directive to members nationwide on what to do. The measure of seriousness can only be seen if something concrete is done between now and the 16th of October, 2019; we are not part of government, we don’t know what they are doing.”
Explaining why labour leaders met, Lawal said, “The meeting is to mobilise our members towards the looming strike if the government does not accede to the demands of labour in respect of the consequential adjustment of salaries arising from the new national minimum wage.
“After October 16, we will give directives to our members nationwide. It is both the public and private sectors. You know that in labour parlance, an injury to one is injury to all. So, whether private sector has implemented or not, they will go on sympathy strike. It is going to be a national strike. It is not going to be limited to the public sector alone.”
Lawal described the meeting convened by the government for Wednesday as informal as no agreement could be signed from such an arrangement.
He said, “If you go through the communique issued by the TUC, the NLC and the JNPSNC, we are asking the government to reconvene the meeting of the committee and within one week, let the committee complete its assignment. So, the meeting for today (Wednesday), as far as we are concerned, is just a kind of an informal meeting, it is not a normal meeting.
“But as labour, we are not averse to discussions and consultations. They have yet to reconvene the main meeting of the committee. The minister is free to call us, we will go. We are hoping that he wants to use it to talk to the two sides before reconvening the meeting.
“You can’t sign any agreement in such kind of an informal meeting. Until you convene the meeting of the committee handling the negotiation of the consequential adjustment, nothing has happened. Anytime from October 17, the leadership of labour will give directives to members nationwide on what to do.”
Rivers, Osun, Oyo, Anambra workers ready for strike
Meanwhile, workers in states such as Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Kwara and Benue on Wednesday said they would join any strike declared by the NLC on the new minimum wage.
Labour is one, we will join strike – Osun NLC
In Osun State, the NLC Secretary, Rufus Adeyemi, said the state chapter had not started negotiations with the state government. He, however, said workers in the state would join the strike whenever the national leadership of organised labour directed workers to go on strike over the new wage.
He said, “Labour is one and once a directive like that is received from the national body, we must comply. So, workers in the state will definitely comply with the directive of the national body of the NLC on this issue.”
We’re ready – Rivers NLC
In Rivers State, the NLC chairperson, Mrs Beatrice Itubo, told one of our correspondents that workers in the state were ready to join their colleagues in Abuja on strike should the issue of minimum wage remain unresolved.
She said, “We will join the strike as soon as they (NLC in Abuja) tell us to do so. We are not the one to ask; the national body will ask and once it (minimum wage) is implemented, of course, it spreads down to the states. We are not operating differently because minimum wage is minimum wage.”
It is incumbent on us to join strike – Benue NLC
Also, the Benue State chairman of the NLC, Godwin Anyan, said the state chapter would not hesitate to mobilise its members for strike. He said, “If the Nigeria Labour Congress is embarking on strike, the national body will notify all the states. The moment we received the directive from Abuja, it is our responsibility to comply.”
Anyan, however, said that the Benue State Government had yet to start negotiation with the union in the state.
We are moblising against FG – Oyo NLC
In Oyo State, the NLC chairman, Bayo Titilola-Sodo, said workers were being sensitised to prepare for the impending strike should the Federal Government fail to accede to labour request. Titilola-Sodo said, “We are mobilising workers and the issue is this: we are mobilising workers, not against the Oyo State Government but against the Federal Government because that’s where the final decision as regards the implementation would trickle down to states for implementation.”
We are awaiting directive – Akwa Ibom NLC chair
Similarly, the chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress Akwa Ibom State chapter, Sunny James, said state chapters of the NLC had not yet received any instruction from the national body to mobilise workers for the strike.
He said as soon as states were instructed to mobilise workers they would have no option but to do so.
“For now we have not been instructed to do anything but when we get instructions, we will do so,” James said.
Kwara TUC, NLC to meet
n the same vein, both the TUC and the NLC in Kwara State on Wednesday said they were mobilising their members for the impending strike over the N30,000 minimum wage. The state chairman of the TUC, Kolawole Olumo, told The PUNCH that members of the executives of the affiliate unions had just risen from a meeting. He said, “We are just rising from the meeting of the chairmen and secretaries of the affiliate unions of the TUC and it is in connection with the proposed strike. We have fixed another meeting for Monday and we are going to have a joint meeting with the NLC on Tuesday.”
Olumo said the negotiations for the new minimum wage had yet to start in the state because the Federal Government had not released the template on which to negotiate the new minimum wage with the state government.
We’re ready for strike – Anambra NLC
Also, the NLC in Anambra State said it would join the strike .
The NLC chairman in the state , Jerry Nnubia, said the workers in the state were ready for the industrial action.
He said,” The new minimum wage is not a new issue to workers. So, you don’t need a fresh mobilisation to get them aware of the situation.”
Reminded that Governor Willie Obiano had assured workers that the state would be the first to implement the new minimum wage, Nnubia said, “You don’t implement the new wage arbitrarily. It’s a national issue that must be resolved nationally before anybody could be talking about implementation.”
In his reaction, the Chairman of the NLC in Cross River State, Benedict Ukpepi, said the congress would participate in the proposed nationwide strike over the minimum wage.
Mobilisation national, Ebonyi will join – NLC
Speaking in the same vein, the Chairman of the NLC in Ebonyi State, Ikechukwu Nwafor, said the mobilisation of workers by the national leadership of the labour union was national.
Nwafor, who stated this on Wednesday said.”The ongoing mobilisation is for the entire nation. It is a national mobilisation and not just for Ebonyi State alone; it’s national. And that means we will join, should the strike hold.”
But the Chairman of the NLC in Ekiti State, Kolapo Olatunde, said the state council was still expecting a directive from the national body.
He said, “We do not work in isolation. Any directive from the national body will be carried out at the state level. We have yet to receive such a directive. Even the directive as to normal template for the minimum wage has not been given by the national leadership. We are awaiting the national template, what is to be agreed upon, from the national body.”
Matawalle promised to pay – Zamfara NLC
However, the Zamfara State NLC, Bashir Mafara, told The PUNCH that the congress had yet to receive any information on the issue.
“We have not been informed or officially communicated to on the strike by the national leaders,” he said. The chairman further explained that, as soon as they got any directive from Abuja, they would convene a meeting to discuss it. He said, “Governor Bello Matawalle has promised to pay the new wage, what he is waiting for is the table on how to go about its implementation.” Punch
Pix:One of NLC protests