Nationwide Industrial Action will Spell Doom for Nigeria, FG Warns

*Says NLC’s N494,000 minimum wage demand unsustainable

*Electricity, oil, maritime, judicial workers mobilise for labour’s indefinite strike tomorrow
*Construction workers give 21-day ultimatum, says sector losing 52,000 jobs

Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Wale Igbintade in Lagos

As the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) mobilise their members for the nationwide industrial action that will commence tomorrow, the federal government has warned that embarking on such action at this critical period will worsen the country’s economy.

It also argued that the N494,000 national minimum wage being demanded by the organised labour is unsustainable as the wage bill cumulatively amounts to the sum of N9.5 trillion, which is capable of destabilising the economy and jeopardising the welfare of over 200 million Nigerians.
NLC and TUC said they have commenced mobilisation of all their affiliates nationwide to shut down the country as from midnight today.
The two apex labour groups, which expressed disappointment with the government’s handling of the negotiation on new minimum wage, had declared an indefinite nationwide industrial action effective from Monday, June 3, 2024.

Electricity, oil, maritime, and judicial workers yesterday expressed their readiness to join the industrial action.
This is as construction workers in the country have also given the federal government a 21-day ultimatum to resolve conflict in the construction sector or face nationwide industrial action.
But the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejoecha, yesterday warned that the planned action is not in the best interest of the country and its people.
In a statement signed by the minister’s media aide, Emameh Gabriel, she cautioned against declaring a strike in the middle of ongoing negotiations, saying it would not only compound the economic woes but also exacerbate the suffering of millions of Nigerians who are already struggling to eke out a living from their daily endeavours.

However, on a conciliatory note, Onyejeocha urged the unions to reconsider their decision and continue engaging in constructive dialogue to find a solution that benefits all, adding that organised labour should continue to respect the principles of social dialogue.
She said any strike at the moment would disproportionately harm the most vulnerable segments of the society.
The minister also sounded a note of warning that any new minimum wage must not lead to widespread job losses, particularly in the Organised Private Sector, which employs the bulk of the nation’s workforce
Onyejeocha expressed disappointment that organised labour abruptly exited the negotiations on Friday, despite the government’s flexibility in rescheduling the meeting from Monday to Friday, May 31, to accelerate the talks.

“Labour unions have remained adamant in their demand for a staggering 1,547 per cent wage increase, after the government’s proposed 100 per cent increase, accompanied by various incentives for workers.
“It is widely acknowledged that the labour unions’ demands are unrealistic, given the country’s current economic position. The government takes into account the nation’s fiscal constraints and the need for sustainable economic growth. In contrast, labour’s demands seem disconnected from the economic realities, potentially jeopadising the very gains they seek to achieve,” the minister added.
Barring any last-minute intervention by the government, the nationwide strike by NLC and TUC will commence by midnight on Sunday.
The Assistant Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Chris Onyeka, told THISDAY that all the affiliate unions nationwide had been directed to mobilise their members to ensure the commencement of the Industrial action.

NLC’s N494,000 Minimum Wage Demand Unsustainable, Says FG

Also speaking on the planned industrial action, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, insisted that the N494,000 national minimum wage being demanded by the organised labour, which cumulatively amounted to the sum of N9.5 trillion, is capable of destabilising the economy and jeopardising the welfare of over 200 million Nigerians.
Speaking yesterday at a press conference in Abuja, the minister also stated that the offer of N60,000 minimum wage by the federal government, which translates to a 100 per cent increase on the existing minimum wage of 2019, had been accepted by the organised private sector, which is a member of the tripartite committee of the negotiations team.
“The sum of N494,000 national minimum wage which labour is seeking would cumulatively amount to the sum N9.5 trillion bill to the federal government of Nigeria.

“Nigerians need to understand that whereas the FG is desirous of ample remuneration for Nigerian workers, what is most critical is that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will not encourage any action that could lead to massive job loss, especially in the private sector, which may not be able to pay the wage demanded by the organised labour,” Idris said.
He added that the federal government was concerned with the welfare of over 200 million Nigerians based on its guiding principles of affordability, sustainability, and the overall health of the nation’s economy.
He urged the union leaders to return to the negotiating table and embrace reasonable and realistic wages for their members.

OPSN: Organised Labour’s Declaration of Strike Ill Timed, Unnecessary

On its part, the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) declared that the call for strike by members of the labour movements was ill-timed, ill-advised, and would only impoverish Nigerians.
The OPSN is comprised of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), National Association of Small Scale Industries (NASME) and National Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI).

Speaking in Lagos yesterday, the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, noted that “the call for an indefinite strike even when the tripartite committee has not completed its proceedings is ill-advised.”
Oyerinde, who is also the OPSN’s spokesperson on the minimum wage negotiation, said the committee was set up to consult extensively and make recommendations on the national minimum wage to President Bola Tinubu.
“The president’s final approval will, thereafter, be passed to the National Assembly for legislative action before the president will give assent,” he said.
Oyerinde advised that any member of the committee could make an independent recommendation, which would be considered by the National Assembly before passing the new national minimum wage bill.
He said: “Aggrieved parties are at liberty to make representation and freely express their views at the National Assembly before a new National Minimum Wage Bill will be passed into law.

“No party in the tripartite committee has the monopoly of views and cannot force its position on others.
“While it is normal for parties to have divergent opinions, the President and Commander-in-Chief has the final authority. It is therefore worrisome that organised labour would call for an indefinite strike when these processes are yet to be concluded.”
Speaking further on the position of the OPSN, Oyerinde noted that “the OPSN remained committed to a new national minimum wage.
“However, the commitment is premised on the need for all parties in the tripartite to respect the time-tested consultative procedure for arriving at a new national minimum wage, while also taking due cognisance of productivity, macro-economic stability, the economic sustainability of enterprises, labour market conditions, inflation, interest rates, exchange rate, needs of workers and their families and other macro-economic dynamics.”

Electricity, Oil, Maritime, Judicial Workers Mobilise for NLC’s Indefinite Strike Tomorrow

Meanwhile, electricity, oil, maritime and judicial workers have mobilised their members for tomorrow’s industrial action.
 The Acting General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Mr. Dominic Igwebike, confirmed that the electricity workers were mobilising for action following the directive of NLC and TUC.

“The withdrawal of services becomes effective on Sunday, June 2, by midnight,” the union leader said.
Junior oil workers under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have also directed its members to comply with the directive of the two labour centres to begin an indefinite nationwide strike on Monday.
Its General Secretary, Mr. Afolabi Olawale, in a statement yesterday, said the union was committed to ensuring total compliance with the directive.
On its part, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has commenced mobilisation and sensitisation of its members for a total and comprehensive industrial action.
The union in a letter addressed to their state chapters and vice presidents, directed them to commence mobilisation to ensure strict compliance to the directive.
The letter dated June 1, 2024, tagged: ‘Mobilisations for Indefinite Nationwide Strike,’ was signed by JUSUN Acting General Secretary, Comrade M.J Akwashiki.
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has also directed its members to comply with the directive of both the NLC and the TUC.
The President General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, gave this directive in a statement issued yesterday by the Head of Media, MWUN, Mr. John Ikemefuna.

Construction Workers Give 21-day Ultimatum, Says Sector Losing 52,000 Jobs

In another development, construction workers in the country have also given the federal government a 21-day ultimatum to resolve conflict in the construction sector or face nationwide industrial action.
The workers under the umbrella of the Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA) and National Union of Civil Engineering Construction Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW) lamented the slowdown of business in the industry occasioned by the new policy of the government.
The two unions, which are affiliates of TUC and the Nigeria NLC, said 52,000 workers were already losing their jobs while 32,000 others may be forced into the labour market if nothing is done by the federal government to resolve the issues.

In a joint press conference addressed by CCESSA president, Ayodeji Adeyemo and NUCECFWW president, Comrade Stephen Okoro, the unions said there is currently a total slowdown in the industry due to disagreement between the contractors handling various civil construction projects for the federal government and the Federal Ministry of Works as a result of unilateral imposition of new standard conditions of contracts by the minister.
“Arising from the foregoing, we call on the federal government to immediately resolve the conflict in the industry by involving all stakeholders in contract awards like the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Works, Council for Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria (COREN), Federation of Construction Industry (FOCI).

“We urge the Minister of Works; the Federation of Construction Industry (FOCI) and all concerned to amicably resolve the current conflict within 21 days, otherwise, the two unions will be compelled to declare industrial actions in the construction industry in Nigeria to address these issues to prevent further loss of jobs of our members,” the unions said.

MAN Backs FG on N60,000 Minimum Wage

The Director-General of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Ajayi Kadri, has thrown its weight behind the federal government on the N60,000 minimum wage proposal, which was rejected by the labour unions.  
Kadri, who spoke on a television programme yesterday, explained that the economic environment has been challenging for both labour and private businesses, making it nearly impossible for them to pay the wage the labour union is demanding.
He said the organised private sector concurred with the federal government that the new minimum wage should be N60,000.
The MAN president explained that the ongoing negotiations between the government and the private sector with labour are not about a living wage, but a minimum wage—the lowest amount that can be paid to any worker in the country.

According to Kadri, the economic environment has been challenging for both labour and private businesses.
“To start with, this is a challenging time for anyone to negotiate minimum wage. From the perspective of the government, labour, and organised private sector, we operate in an environment where there is general acceptance that the macroeconomics are not right, even though the global economy is experiencing a lot of shakeups and the aftermath of government necessary reforms.
“From the beginning of the negotiations of the minimum wage, it’s evident to the tripartite— that is the government, labour, and organized private sector— that we are going to operate in difficult terrain.

“Incidentally, the organised private sector and government have offered N60,000 as the minimum wage and I think it is very important for us to understand that what we are talking about is the minimum wage.
“That is what some people have called the walk-in wage. That is the amount we will pay the least workers in the country. It is the minimum wage we are negotiating, not a living wage,” Ajayi said.
Speaking further, Ajayi noted that there are massive constraints on the part of both the government and the private sector to fulfill the proposed N419,000 living wage labour request.

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