Labour Unions commence strike, paralyze economic activities

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has directed all workers in the public and private sectors across Nigeria to down tools and stay away from their workplaces beginning from today. The leadership of organised labour gave orders that all establishments, including banks, schools, courts and filling stations, should shut down their operations until further notice.

The directive followed the breakdown in the talks between the Federal Government and organised labour over a new minimum wage. However, the Federal Government has pleaded with the leadership of the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to shelve the strike, assuring that the Tripartite Committee on the New National Minimum Wage would reconvene on October 4 to conclude its negotiations.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, made this known while addressing newsmen after a brief meeting with organised labour, in a last ditch attempt to avert the strike. He claimed that the 14- day ultimatum issued by organised labour never got to him, otherwise the matter would have been dealt with before matters got out of hand. Ngige urged organised labour to call off the strike, saying “we do not need to have any strike in this country” at this time. He gave assurances that before the meeting on October 4, all demands made by labour would have been looked into with a view to addressing them.

According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was labour-friendly and would continue to demonstrate it in many ways. “One of the ways that we are going to show it is by implementing the new minimum wage and this we need to fix a base for the lowest paid worker in Nigeria. We are resuming next week, precisely on Thursday, October 4, and the meeting may spill over to October 5, as we normally use two days for the meeting. All the processes have been put in place.

“Already, they are working on it – the National Salaries and Wages Commission – and it is expected that before that meeting on October 4, they would have been through with the work.

“Everything is subject to negotiations. So, on October 4, we are going back to the negotiating table,” he said. In clear defiance, President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the strike by organised labour would go on as planned until further notice. “Since the time we issued this notice, there has been no consultation or meeting, this is the first time. The briefing needs to be communicated to our membership. “Our demand is that the Tripartite Negotiating Council should be called back to conclude its assignment. We are taking back the discussion we had with him, especially the update on what they are doing which before now, we are not aware of because there was no consultation,” Wabba said.

On his part, the Deputy President, United Labour Congress (UCL), Achese Igwe, maintained that despite the meeting with government, the strike would go on until government meets the demand of organised labour. In a joint press briefing yesterday in Abuja, the NLC lamented that despite series of meetings and assurances from the Federal Government to give Nigerian workers a new minimum wage by September 2018, government reneged on its pledge when it suddenly adjourned the meeting of the Tripartite Committee, set up to facilitate the process of proclaiming a new minimum wage. Wabba disclosed that government’s recent actions were clear signs it was not ready for a new national minimum wage.

He explained that the warning strike, in the first instance, was to compel the government to reconvene the meeting of the committee in order to bring the negotiations to a logical conclusion. “It has only been taking workers for a ride; it has only been taking advantage of workers’ misplaced abiding faith or trust.

Given this circumstance, this warning strike is absolutely necessary. It is a precursor to the main strike, which will be the mother of all strikes. “In compliance with this mandate, all workers in the public and private sectors at all levels across the country have been directed to comply. Industrial unions, state councils, all worker organisations and our civil society allies have been directed to step up mobilization of their members.

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“All public and private institutions, offices, banks, schools, public and private business premises, including filling stations, are to remain shut till further notice. All those who mean well for this country are to see to the success of this action. Furthermore, this action is to remain in force until further directives are given,” he said. The National Minimum Wage Committee was inaugurated in November 2017, but commenced work in March 2018 with timelines to deliver on its mandate of arriving at a new national minimum wage in August/ September 2018. Ngige had, in February this year, during the 40th anniversary celebration of NLC, assured workers that they would have a new minimum wage in September.

The committee received several memoranda and inputs from 21 state governments, specialised agencies of the Federal Government, the Organised Private Sector (OPS), organised labour and the general public. According to Wabba, the organised labour was outraged and shell-shocked by the decision of government to adjourn the meeting of the committee indefinitely on the excuse that it would enable the Federal Government team to hold further consultations on the issue.

The unionist, who justified Labour’s demand for a new national minimum wage, said it was not about salary-earners alone, but about the generality of Nigerians who have been hearing the brunt of the harsh economic policies of the present government.

“May we remind all Nigerians that before this government increased the pump price of petroleum products by over 80% and devalued the naira by over a 100%, commodity prices were considerably cheaper, tariffs were more friendly, rents and transportation charges were bearable, while wages of workers have remained static. “Today, these things have all changed!

The economic decisions of this government led to fundamental consequential effects on workers and the citizenry, including unbearable electricity tariffs, punitive exchange rate and hyperinflation, all of which led to a rising cost of living for workers and other Nigerians, and bad business for business people. “Government, in appreciation of these hardships, set up the Palliatives Committee to fashion out mitigatory strategy, policies, and programmes to cushion the vagaries of its policies, but to date, we are not aware that any of the recommendations of the committee has been implemented. “Government’s pronouncement goes to cast further doubt on the integrity of the government, as well as underscores the inherent danger in doing business with government.

It is beginning to look like this government does not intend to keep its promises to workers. And take note, when workers and other Nigerians do not have capacity to purchase goods or services, businesses die. This is not about salariedpeople. It is about everyone. It is about a chain. So stay at home,” Wabba stated. In a swift compliance with the order, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has directed its members nationwide to comply with the warning strike by the organised Labour to press home their demand for a new minimum wage.

President of JUSUN, Comrade Marwan Mustapha Adamu, while giving the directives in Abuja, said effective from Wednesday midnight, all courts in the country must remain closed pending a counter instruction from the national secretariat of the union. “As an affiliate of NLC, all members of JUSUN are to stay back at home from Wednesday midnight, September 26. Also, all courts are expected to remain shut until further directive from the national secretariat of our great union.

“A committee, in conjunction with the NLC and other stakeholders, was put in place to go round to ensure compliance with the directive,” the notice stated.

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