mololu Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The organised labour may call off Monday the strike action it embarked upon last Thursday, THISDAY learnt last night. A top government official who did not want to be named said this followed talks between Federal Government officials and labour leaders at the weekend. He disclosed that organised labour might announce the suspension of the strike on Monday ahead of the tripartite committee meeting scheduled to hold on October 4.
It was gathered that labour leaders, which insisted on guarantees that Thursday’s meeting will be used to strike a deal on the new minimum wage, were prevailed upon to soft-pedal to allow the committee to conclude action on the matter.
The decision to call off the strike might not be unconnected with the intervention of the Presidency on Thursday through the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, who tried to persuade labour leaders to end the strike.
At the meeting of the chief of staff with the leadership of the organised labour on Thursday at the State House, Abuja, the Presidency pleaded with labour to end the strike, which has affected economic activities in different parts of the country.
After the meeting, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, told journalists that the meeting was fruitful. Wabba promised that the meeting’s outcome would be tabled before relevant organs of the organised labour to determine the next line of action.
According to him, the federal government, through the chief of staff, had made a promise to the group that their agitations would be addressed. However, Wabba failed to disclose the nature of the promise made by Kyari.
“The Chief of Staff tried to give us details of government position which we will have to go and convey to our members and then we can revert back to him,” Wabba had said.
But on Friday, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said the federal government was working assiduously to ensure the strike was called off.
“The Presidency wishes to assure that the federal government is taking every step necessary to get the unions to call off the strike,” Shehu said.
He said the organised labour had accepted the federal government’s demand to reconvene the tripartite committee meeting on the proposed new national minimum wage.
According to him, the meeting between the leadership of labour and representatives of various employers of labour, including the federal and state governments, has been rescheduled to reconvene on October 4.
He also explained the tripartite nature of the meeting, saying it is so called because it is made up of representatives of the public sector, that is, federal and state governments, as well as the private sector, which he said comprised the largest private employer group, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).
Shehu listed other members of the body to include the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), and Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES).
Various labour unions, particularly in the public sector, had on Thursday mobilised their members to embark on a warning strike action following the breakdown in negotiations on a new national minimum wage between the unions and the federal government. The organised labour had demanded an upward review of the current N18, 000 monthly minimum wage to N65, 500 across board.
But THISDAY learnt that at the meeting of the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage, chaired by former Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ama Pepple, the organised private sector had proposed N25, 000 as its next minimum wage while other unions in the public sector insisted that the least they could accept from the federal government would be N43, 000.
While the private sector and the labour unions have come up with proposals on the next minimum wage, the federal government has till date failed to come up with its own proposal, thus compelling labour to proceed on strike last Thursday.
Although Vice President Yemi Osinbajo recently met with the Economic Management Team (EMT) in the presidential villa to brainstorm on the new wage, details of the meeting have not been made public.
When contacted on the latest position of Labour, General Secretary of NLC, Peter Esom, said the organised labour was yet to suspend the strike action, adding that until they consult with the affiliate unions no such decision can be taken.