Minimum wage: Labour gears up for nationwide strike

With negotiations on the minimum wage between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on the one hand and the federal government on the other deadlocked, the former has pressed ahead with the plan to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike, beginning from tomorrow....Read The Full Story Here ▶

To this end, it instructed its state councils and affiliates across the country to ensure total compliance.

The two labour unions announced the strike last Friday following the failure of the tripartite committee set up by the government to make a decision on a new national minimum wage after about four meetings.

Labour’s negotiating team had, on May 15, walked out of the tripartite committee meeting after the government offered N48, 000.

On May 21, the federal government increased the proposed minimum wage to N54, 000, which labour again rejected and described as “unacceptable”.

On May 28, talks broke down after the government and the organised private sector raised their offers to N60, 000.

The NLC and TUC had proposed N615, 500 as the minimum wage that the federal government should pay Nigerian workers, citing the high cost of living.

“As of today, there is no minimum wage for Nigerian workers. Technically, the minimum wage had expired on the 18th of April. As of now, we are operating without any law backing up the minimum wage. They were talking about a 100 per cent increase. That is what they have offered, but the 100 per cent increase amounts to one loaf of bread per day for 30 days .They are not looking at the quality or the value of what they are offering to us.

“Those are the issues that we are looking at and all of us must address it because it is tight. There is nobody that can move on with this arrangement being done with inflation and devaluation. Everything is open.

“If we take even the N600, 000 we are proposing today, by next week, it will not make any impact. So, we have to look at them holistically and see what we can do to save the working class in Nigeria. We are not doing a strike that will be one month without a bite.

“I’m not sure where you have labour centres in a country embarking on a strike for one month and you don’t listen to them,” NLC president, Mr Joe Ajaero said.

In preparation for the industrial action, the NLC, in a circular by its general secretary, Mr Emmanuel Ugboaja, to all its state councils, said: “This is to inform you of the commencement of the proposed indefinite nationwide strike beginning on Monday, June 3, 2024, as a result of the failure of the Nigerian state to agree on a new national minimum wage and subsequently pass it into law before the end of this month as they were notified; Reverse the hike in electricity tariff without consulting the stakeholders as required by the law to N225/kwh back to N66/kwh and Stop the apartheid categorisation of Nigerian electricity consumers into Bands.

“We kindly request all state councils to mobilise all their affiliates and members across the state to stay away from work commencing Midnight, this Sunday to ensure a comprehensive closure of all workplaces.

“Do please, set up joint action committees with the TUC in your state for effective coordination of the strike action. We would be glad to receive continuous updates of your effort. Do remember that the success of this action is dependent on our collective determination and resolve.”
Similarly, circulars issued by affiliate unions directed members across the nation to ensure full compliance with the NLC and TUC directive.

Affiliate unions mobilise members

Circulars from the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU), Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR), and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), among others urged their members to totally comply with the strike directive.

NUPENG in its circular issued by the general secretary, Mr Afolabi Olawale, urged its members, including the distributors and marketing of petroleum products to down tools.

“This is to notify all our members and branches in all oil and gas installations, operations and services including distribution and marketing of petroleum products, that our great union is fully committed to ensuring total compliance with the directive of the Nigerian Labour Congress issued on Friday, May 31, 2024, for an indefinite nationwide strike commencing from Monday, June 3, 2024.

“As a union, we are deeply concerned and disturbed with the insensitive and irresponsive attitude of the federal government to the very critical issue of negotiating a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers in view of the various social economic policies of this administration that have impoverished the working people of this country.

“Leaders of our great union at all levels, from the units, Zones and Branches, should immediately put all processes in place to ensure total compliance with this directive Our solidarity remains constant because the union makes us strong. The struggle continues. And we shall overcome.”

Similarly, the president and acting general secretary of NUEE, Messrs Adebiyi Adeyeye and Dominic Igwebike said in a notice they jointly signed that the union was mobilising its members for the strike.

They said aside the inconclusive negotiations on the minimum wage and electricity tariff hike, the apartheid categorisation of Nigeria’s electricity consumers into bands was another reason for the decision to embark on the strike.

“We are to mobilise and embark on an indefinite nationwide strike starting Monday, June 3, 2024, by 0.00hour due to the failure of the Nigerian government to implement and sign into law the new national minimum wage on or before 31st May 2024, non-reversal of the electricity tariff which was hiked from N65/kwh to N225/kwh without consulting the stakeholders as required by the law and Apartheid categorization of Nigeria electricity consumers into bands.

“Given the above, all national, state, and chapter executives are requested to start the mobilization of our members in total compliance with this directive to ensure the government does the right thing as stated above.

“You are encouraged to work with the leadership of state executive councils of the congress in your various states to have a successful action. The withdrawal of services becomes effective Sunday 2nd June by 12.00 midnight.”

The general secretary of NUATE, Mr Ocheme Aba, confirmed that the union would participate in the strike.
“Definitely, we would be part of it (the strike) but exactly how it would happen, I cannot say. We’re meeting…but definitely we would be part of it.”

For its part, president-general of MWUN, Mr Adewale Adeyanju, said in a statement issued by the spokesman for the union, Mr John Ikemefuna, directed members at the nation’s seaports to comply with the directive of both NLC and TUC to join in the indefinite total lockdown of the country commencing from tomorrow.

“The indefinite nationwide strike has become very imperative, given the failure of the federal government on the logjam and the inconclusive national minimum wage negotiation and refusal to reverse the hard biting hike in electricity tariff.

“Given the foregoing, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria has directed its members in all ports nationwide, jetties, terminals, and oil and gas platforms to effectively ensure the total compliance of the strike as directed by the NLC and TUC. This is also to serve as notice to all our concerned stakeholders in the maritime sector.”

Also mobilizing for the strike is NUBIFIE. The union said in a statement that the strike is meant to compel the federal government to agree on a new minimum wage and subsequently pass it into law.

“This is to inform all NUBIFIE organs that NLC has directed all its affiliates to commence an indefinite strike beginning from Monday, June 3, 2024.

“The import of the strike is to compel the federal government to agree on a new national minimum wage and subsequently pass it into law before the end of this month as they were notified, reverse the hike in electricity tariff without consulting the stakeholders as required by the law to N225/kwh back to N66/kwh and Stop the apartheid categorization of Nigerian electricity into Bands.

“In total compliance with the directives from the NLC, you are hereby directed to mobilize for effective participation in your respective zonal councils/domestic committee and ensure total compliance,” NUBIFIE said.

FG begs labour to shelve strike

As the hours go by, the federal government through the minister of information and national orientation, Mr Mohammed Idris, pleaded with the NLC and the TUC to shelve the planned strike and return to the negotiation table in the interest of the nation.

He said the sum of N494,000 national minimum wage being sought by the labour would “cumulatively amount to the sum of N9.5 trillion bill to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“Indefinite strike action is not the solution. It will rather complicate the situation. Our appeal is that they should shelve that strike, rethink the strike; because it is not in the interest of Nigerians”, he said.

According to him, it is important for Nigerians to understand that while the government is desirous of ample remuneration for workers, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will not encourage any action that could lead to massive job losses.

“Whereas the labour is keen on the take-home pay of about 1.2 million workers, the federal government is concerned with the welfare of 200 million plus Nigerians. This is because, the federal government’s guiding principle is: affordability, sustainability and the overall health of the nation’s economy”, he said.

Idris called on all parties to embrace “reasonable and realistic dialogue” that would result in the proper resolution of the impasse.

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