Labour to Embark on Indefinite Strike  over Minimum Wage

  • To hold nationwide mourning tomorrow

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The crisis over workers’ agitation for new national minimum wage has taken a new dimension with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) threatening to commence a nationwide strike from November 6, if the federal government fails to meet their demands.

Both the federal and state governments have said they are willing to negotiate a new minimum wage but that the amount must be within what they can reasonably afford.

The federal government went further to labour to accept a proposal of N20,000 as a consensus figure.

But the NLC has accused the federal government of insincerity and mischief, saying that what was agreed on at the negotiations was N30,000.

As a warning shot, NLC said its members would hold nationwide rallies on Tuesday to show the workers’ outrage over the delay in approving a new minimum wage.

In a statement jointly signed by the President of the NLC, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, the President of the TUC, Mr. Bobboi Bala Kaigama, and President of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Mr. Joe Ajaero, the unions said the one day mourning would be used to sensitise Nigerians on the plight of workers.

The statement said that the rallies would take place in all the states of the federation, including Abuja on Tuesday, October 30.

Labour also said it would hold a Joint Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting of all the Labour Centres in Nigeria on Friday to receive reports and make final preparations for the ultimate engagement with the federal government on the matter.

It said this would be the first time in recent times that such meeting would take place, adding, “This goes a long way to show the seriousness with which Nigerian workers and its leadership hold this matter.”

The labour unions warned that if nothing was responsibly done by the federal government to meet their demands by November 6, they would embark on a nation-wide strike to compel the government to show more sensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.

They said, “We urge all Nigerians and workers not to be discouraged as it has become obvious that this government does not care neither for the workers nor for the citizenry.

“It would always prefer the use of force to silence and subdue our cries of anguish rather than show feelings of brotherhood especially when our strength of logic and argument has overwhelmed their feeble attempts and propaganda. Let us today remember those who deny us and let us collectively demonstrate our position at next year’s polls.”

While explaining the events that led to the last nation-wide strike, which forced the federal government to return to the negotiation table, the unions regretted that renegotiation of a new national minimum wage had been subjected to delays since the expiration of the last one in 2016.

The unions expressed anger that the delays and foot-dragging were pointers that the government was not showing good faith on the new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.

They accused the federal government of insincerity and of deliberately trying to create confusion and make the negotiations inconclusive as usual.

Labour said it was not true that it proposed N30,000 as the new national minimum wage, adding that was also not true that the committee did not agree on a figure during its last sitting.

They said, “We accepted N30,000 as a compromise to demonstrate the willingness of Nigerian workers to make sacrifices towards nation building. Anything to the contrary no matter the quantum and character of the din or how well couched it may appear cannot be true.

“We believe that it has become necessary for the Organised Private Sector (OPS) as represented in the Tripartite Committee to speak up on this matter. Keeping silent in the face of this apparent mischief does our nation no good.

“It can only help mischief, dishonesty and impunity to grow. At this time the OPS does not have any other choice but to rise to the occasion by telling Nigerians what transpired in the meeting,” it said.