By Toba Suleiman in Ado-Ekiti and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday warned of an imminent industrial action to compel recalcitrant governors to implement the N18,000 minimum wage law in their states.
NLC President, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar, during a visit to Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, said governors who were yet to implement the N18,000 minimum wage as approved by the federal government should brace up for an industrial action that would soon be embarked upon by workers.
Omar’s warning came as fresh facts emerged on why labour leaders were divided over the industrial action declared to agitate for the full implementation of minimum wage in Osun State.
Omar, who fielded questions from journalists, lamented that up till now, several states are yet to decide on what to pay their workers as agreed with labour, which had conceded that states with proven evidence of inability to pay N18,000 as minimum wage should negotiate with labour leaders in their domains on what to pay.
He stated that it was important to call the erring states to order, as the federal government had created an enduring platform for the states to pay their workers.
While urging the affected states to brace up for what he described as a ‘titanic battle’ with the workers, Omar said the labour unions would soon fine-tune arrangements on how to compel the erring states to commence the implementation of the minimum wage law.
Omar added that labour would not be deterred in its advocacy for a living wage for all workers in the country, saying its demand for N52,000 minimum wage before it was reduced to N18,000 through negotiation was not meant to cripple the government financially.
He pointed out that the measure was targeted at improving the welfare of workers and vowed that states flouting the minimum wage law would soon be resisted by labour.
According to him, the N18,000 minimum wage is too meagre for any state to say it cannot afford to pay it.
He further explained that the insistence on the payment of the N18,000 minimum wage was ongoing, stressing that workers would continue to agitate for its realisation.
Omar, who also spoke on the speculation that the federal government was planning to remove oil subsidy, stated that out of the N1.3 trillion alleged to have been expended on oil subsidy in 2011, only N270 billion was discovered to have been appropriated while the rest were paid to oil cabals under shady circumstances.
He said: “For government to be contemplating outright removal of oil subsidy at a time the economy is biting harder is rather lamentable.
“Statistics have shown that out of the N1.3 trillion the government claimed to have spent on oil subsidy in 2011, only N270 billion was appropriated with the rest going into the hands of major and minor oil thieves.
“The logical thing for the federal government to have done is to block this leakage so that government can have enough money to save and to sustain the subsidy. A sum of N270 billion is not too much for government to spend on 150 million Nigerians yearly, so that they can live above poverty line.
“Recently, Egypt subsidised bread to the ratio of 1:7, which implies that when you buy a bread, you will only pay 1/7 of the cost as a citizen while the government will pay 6/7. Those advising the president is this aspect are not doing enough.
“So out of the N1.04 trillion excess that was spent by government to fund oil subsidy, we demand to know the beneficiaries of this money and how much they illegally took to test the seriousness of government in this regard.”
Meanwhile, labour leaders in Osun State are divided over the industrial action declared to press home the full implementation of minimum wage in the state.
Some labour leaders had declared a four-day warning strike to press for the implementation of minimum wage in the state.
It was learnt that a signatory to the letter for the declaration of the strike by the NLC, Alhaji Adebayo Adejumo, is a retired federal worker believed not to have any stake concerning workers’ welfare in the state.
It was also gathered that his tenure of office as the Chairman, Joint Negotiation Council I, II & III had expired last month and he was expected to have vacated office for a fresh election.
It was also learnt that some of the unions that comprise the state chapters of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) such as the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) executives were not carried along in the decision for the declaration of the strike.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Osogbo, Mr. Akinyemi Olatunji of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria said some few labour leaders in the state were behind the strike threat.
According to him, “It has come to our notice that some people claiming to represent workers in the public service of the state have issued notice of a four-day warning strike from Tuesday April 2, 2013.
“As duly elected officers of our unions and in exercise of the powers conferred on us by the constitution of our unions, we hereby direct all our members to ignore the call to strike by the authors of the notice who claim to be acting under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Negotiation Council (JNC).”
Olatunji said the strike was masterminded by a few persons who he said did not consult the leadership of other unions before taking the decision.
He explained that most of the signatories to the strike notice are not representatives of all the unions in the NLC, adding that the NLC could only call for strike on the basis of collective decision by all constituent unions.
He accused the labour leaders of attempting to stampede the workers into an illegal strike.
He urged public workers in the state to disregard the call to go on strike, saying that such action would not achieve any meaningful purpose.