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Minimum Wage: Why Labour begins nationwide strike despite NASS leadership’s interventions ─Osifo, President of TUC

L-R: Senate President Godswill Akpabio; Comrade Joe Ajaero, President of NLC; and Mr. Festus Osifo, President of TUC, at the 'Peace Meeting', Sunday, June 2, in Abuja, FCT

*For now, we don’t have the power to call off the strike…. The strike will kick off as we take their (NASS) plea asking us to call off the strike to our various organs,’ says Festus Osifo, President of Trade Union Congress

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Despite the last-minute interventions of the Federal lawmakers to avert the proposed industrial action, the leadership of the Organised Labour, in Nigeria, insists the workers will commence their nationwide strike Monday, June 3, 2024.

ConsumerConnect reports the development in the economy is sequel to a four-hour last-minute meeting held evening Sunday, June 2, in. Abuja, FCT, between the Labour Unions and representatives of the National Assembly (NASS), to shelve the industrial action.

Speaking after the meeting on Sunday, Mr. Festus Osifo, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said: “For now, we don’t have the power to call off the strike, tomorrow (Monday) morning, the strike will kick off as we take their (NASS) plea asking us to call off the strike to our various organs.”

Osifo and Comrade Joe Ajaero, his counterpart in the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), earlier Sunday had met with Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Tajudeen Abbas, Speaker of the House of Representatives, in Abuja.

The NLC, on its verified X account Sunday night had stated that “Strike Action Goes on, A living wage is Possible.”

Report further indicates the intervention of the leadership of the Federal Legislature to avert a strike from Monday over the determination of the new National Minimum Wage.

Commenting on the last-ditch effort of the lawmakers to engage with the Organised Labour, the National Assembly said the meeting was to “avert the impending industrial action” slated for Monday, June 3.

According to the Federal legislators, the planned industrial action “would have severe repercussions on the populace and economy.”

House Speaker advocates adoption of ‘Living Wage’ to eliminate systemic corruption

In his submissions during the last-ditch meeting with the Labour leaders June 2, Dr. Abbas, Speak of the House of Representatives, who chaired the “peace meeting” between the Federal Government and Organised Labour, restated his advocacy for a ‘Living Wage’ as essential to eradicating corruption in public offices in Nigeria.

The Speaker said: “One thing that this government and this country can do to eliminate corruption in the long-run is to embrace a ‘living wage.’ There are no two ways about it.”

Abbas equally emphasised the need for a gradual approach in addressing the longstanding issues related to wages and salaries.

He noted: “We should also be mindful that the issues of numerous decades cannot be repaired within one day. It will be a gradual process.”

Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Tajudeen Abbas, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the leadership of the Organised Labour at the meeting, in Abuja

Abbas, who also commended the leadership of the NLC and TUC for participating in the dialogue, assured the stakeholders that the National Assembly would continue to prioritise the well-being of Nigerian consumers.

The Speaker further stressed the significance of dialogue in ensuring that workers’ welfare remains a key focus of government policies and actions in the country.

Strike won’t help matters; it’s unfortunate Organised Labour rejects N60,000 Minimum Wage offer: MAN Director-General

Likewise, Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), in the heat of the Labour Unions’ threat to commence by Monday morning, had appealed to the leadership of NLC and TUC to reconsider their decision on the industrial action over the tripartite committee’s inability to yet agree on a new National Minimum Wage.

Ajayi-Kadir, who had been on the part of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) in the multilateral committee on the Minimum Wage negotiation, made the appeal while featuring in a recent programme on Channels TV.

The Director-General of MAN asserted it was unfortunate that the Organised Labour rejected the N60,000 offer from the Federal Government and the OPS, but rather chose to declare a nationwide strike.

According to him, strike won’t help matters in economy, because it in regard to damaging consequences of the strike on the macroeconomy, the situation would be a huge blow on the private sector, especially manufacturers already grappling with inadequacy in the macroeconomic environment in Nigeria.

The MAN Chief also emphasised that he does not believe that the Labour’s walking out of discussions and declaring strike would help matters in the economy.

“We cannot afford to cripple the economy, when all we needed to do is continue to build it.

“I think President Tinubu was very clear when he emerged as President that these are not going to be easy times.

“And I think we needed to tighten our belts to deliver on economy that we know has been seriously battered,” stated he.

Ajayi-Kadir, however, tasked the government to, on its own side, demonstrate leadership, sensitivity, and sense of and sense of mind as well as sense of occasion of the period that we are in.

The MAN Chief added: “So, government expenditure, government choices of what needed to be done, how much to be spent, the cost of governance itself, all of it has to come to the table.

“I think what Labour is actually worried about is that they appear to be the ones on the brunt of it; but we needed to be able to engage, walking out on the process and declaring strike, I do not think that that is what is going to solve this issue.

“What we are saying is a situation that if we are not able to produce even with all the challenges we have, it is going to have a ripple effect, not only on our production process but on Labour itself.

“If we down tools and we are unable to produce, it is doubtful if we will be able to pay even the offer (N60,000) that the private sector and the government have agreed.”

Labour Unions’ bone of contention amid stakeholders’ interventions

The decision of the NLC and TUC followed the recent deadlock after a meeting between the Federal Government and the Labour Unions over a new National Minimum Wage and reversal of the recent tariff hike for Band A electricity consumers in Nigeria.

Diket Plang and Adegboyega Adefarati, Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Labour, Employment and Productivity respectively, reportedly attended the meeting with the leadership of the Organised Labour.

The Labour unions have argued the current Minimum Wage of N30,000 could no longer cater to the wellbeing of an average Nigerian worker.

They equally lamented that some State Governors are not paying the current wage award that expired April 2024, five years after former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Minimum Wage Act of 2019 into law.

The Act should be reviewed every five years to meet up with contemporary economic demands of workers.

But the failed talks with the government, Labour rejected three Federal Government’s offers, the latest being N60,000.

Both the NLC and TUC subsequently pulled out of negotiations with the stakeholders, insisting on N497,000 as their suggested new Minimum Wage for workers in the West African country.

Therefore, after the deadlocked meeting, the Labour Unions gave the government May 31 cone up with a new Minimum Wage.

And by May 31, the workers’ organs had declared that the Organised Labour would commence a national strike effective from Monday, June 3.

Meanwhile, Mr. Olawale Edun, Honourable Minister for Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, has urged the stakeholders to endeavour to be pro-active well ahead of the next five years of such a review, according to report.

Additional reporting by Isola Moses.

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