There are strong indications that the Organised Labour may today (Sunday) suspend the ongoing nationwide strike over new n
The strike had commenced last Thursday after the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to announce its figure, reconvene the meeting of the 30- man Technical Committee on the issue and ensure the completion of its work ahead of the announcement of a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers. The current N18,000 minimum wage expired in 2015.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the planned suspension of the strike, that has paralyzed critical sectors of the economy, including the down stream sector of the oil industry, where loading and distribution of petroleum products have been stopped, and maritime services, is a fall out of a meeting between labour leaders and top government officials that lasted several hours on Friday.
According to a source, chief among other reasons for the planned suspension of the strike is the reconvening of the meeting of the Tripartite Committee on the minimum wage on Thursday which the Organised Labour had claimed was adjourned sine die by government. Labour leaders have been assured that the meeting will not only reconvene, the Federal Government is also expected to present its figure to the meeting on Thursday.
The refusal of the Federal Government to present its figure to the committee, whereas other social partners had presented theirs, stalled the conclusion of the assignment of the committee. While the private sector employers, some state governments and the Organised Labour have all made presentations on their figures for a new national minimum wage, the Federal Government, which ought to be the driving force as a result of labour issues being on the exclusive legislative list, is yet to present its figure for the committee to work with alongside other presentations to arrive at a new national minimum wage.
One of the labour leaders, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in confidence, yesterday, however, warned that “if government fails to present its figure, in the Thursday meeting expected to dovetail into Friday, the Organised Labour will have no choice than to resume a more devastating nationwide strike next week.”
Meanwhile, the National Labour Congress (NLC) said, yesterday, that the strike could be suspended if the Federal Government yielded to workers’ demand. Speaking when the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, paid a visit to the Labour House in Abuja to plead for the suspension of the strike, the National President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said government could facilitate immediate suspension of the strike by doing the needful.
According to Wabba, after the meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, at the State House on Thursday, the NLC National Executive Council, NEC, met and communicated government’s position to all the labour organs. But the General Secretary of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, an affiliate of the NLC, Peters Adeyemi, told Sunday Vanguard after the union’s National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja that there was no will from government to approve a new minimum wage.
Adeyemi, who is a member of the Minimum Wage Negotiation Committee, said it was appalling that the Federal Government that inaugurated the committee had not shown any sign of seriousness, adding that the committee members will only meet with the government team when there is a proposed figure from government.
“The National Executive Council of NASU is in alignment with the Organised Labour on the on-going strike over the inability of the Federal Government to present its figure to the committee”, he said. “I have never seen in the history of any nation where the President of a country will inaugurate a committee and after the inauguration ceremony, everybody goes to bed.
That in itself is an indictment on the part of government. It shows clearly that this government is only paying lip service to workers welfare. “We insist that the workers that create the wealth of the nation must benefit from those wealth. It cannot be elected officers that eat billions and, when it gets to the workers, they are paid peanuts.
Arithmetic calculation today shows that N18,000 minimum wage is less than $50. This is far worse than what it was in 2011 when the present minimum wage was negotiated”. The NASU scribe said that the NEC will come up with resolutions where elected office holders who are not interested in the workers welfare will be voted out in 2019.
On his part, the National President of NASU, Chris Ani, said the union was shocked that almost one year after President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Ama People National Minimum Wage Committee, nothing concrete had come out of the committee. He said, “We are further saddened that the work of the committee has been seriously hampered by the lack of figures from both the federal and state governments.
“While the refusal of the governors forum to propose a figure for the work of the National Minimum Wage Committee may not be surprising because most of the governors are clearly unwilling, judging by their body language, to support an increase in the minimum wage, it is however astonishing that the federal government that inaugurated the Committee has also failed to honour its own obligation in this direction.”