Averting Another Labour Strike

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Following a seeming deadlock in the negotiations for a new national minimum wage, the organised labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) has declared that the labour movement in the country would commence a nationwide indefinite strike, effective November 6, if the Federal Government fails to show seriousness, sincerity and avowed commitment to the immediate implementation of an agreed new minimum wage of N30,000.
Making their position known in a joint statement signed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, TUC President, Bobboi Bala Kaigama and ULC President, Joe Ajaero in Abuja last Sunday, the labour leaders expressed anger over the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the plight of Nigerian workers and its perceived unwillingness to concede to the organised labour and the organised private sector’s stance on the issue.
While briefing an emergency National Executive Council meeting of NLC in Abuja, last Tuesday on the conclusion of negotiations and the final majority report of the Tripartite Committee submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari the previous day, Wabba said that all steps had been taken to meet workers’ yearnings, and directed all the 36 state chapters and the FCT to gear up for “nationwide indefinite strike and industrial action from November 6, 2018; except government accepts and commences the process of perfecting the payment of N30,000 as the negotiated new national minimum wage on or before that date”.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government has been pontificating with the proposal of N24,000 while the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has reluctantly suggested a paltry N20,000, just N2,000 higher than the current minimum wage approved by the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2010 which, by law, was supposed to have been reviewed upward in 2015. The organised labour’s threat is even more amplified by the OPS’s resolve not to engage in any further negotiations below the agreed N30,000 by majority of the parties in the tripartite committee.
Confirming their support for the organised labour’s position, the Director-General-designate, Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale said, “We have concluded. We have a majority figure which was N30,000, which was what we all agreed on. However, there was a minority voice from the Federal Government that it would not be sustainable for government and they proposed N24,000. But we insisted that we were closing discussion, and we were leaving it at N30,000”.
The Tide is not surprised at the understanding and agreement by the organised labour and NECA to work in synergy to ameliorate the sufferings of the Nigerian worker by collectively submitting a majority report of the Tripartite Committee on new National Minimum Wage of N30,000 to President Buhari, last Monday.
This is why we align with the majority position of the committee, and task the Buhari-led government to immediately do the needful so as to avert the consequences of any inaction on such sensitive issue as the implementation of an overdue new national minimum wage in the face of the harsh economic realities and the weakening purchasing power of the Nigerian worker.
We like to caution the Federal Government to make hay while the sun shines to avoid plunging the nation into a state of economic retrogression and political limbo ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The Tide is alarmed at the high level of insensitivity, cluelessness and lawlessness of the Buhari’s government, which ought to know better, given the exigencies of the moment, and in view of the fact that the lifespan of the current minimum wage expired three years ago. It is sad that a government which claims to be listening, functional and responsive to the stark realities on the ground, would delay this long in addressing the concerns of workers at this critical time in our national life. We fear that this government’s attitude exposes its lack of good faith in finding enduring and sustainable solution to the debilitating purchasing power facing the Nigerian worker in the face of skyrocketing inflation.
We think that deliberately creating confusion and applying delay tactics in concluding negotiations would not help the government. In fact, such strategy may only facilitate industrial disharmony and further threaten economic recovery and political as well as democratic stability in the country.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to move a step forward beyond the polemics and rhetorics, and present an Executive Bill on the New National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly for passage and the President’s assent. We give this charge because we think this is the only way to show seriousness and sincerity of purpose by the Buhari-led government in resolving the new minimum wage impasse.
Indeed, the Federal Government has no plausible option than accede to the majority position to avert another nationwide strike, which would not be in the interest of the nation. Let Buhari wake up from his slumber and act quickly. This is our humble advice.