Nigeria: Labour draws battle line with govt over minimum wage

BY: Vanguard Nigeria

Leaders of Nigeria’s Organised Labour, workers and their civil society allies on Tuesday, trooped into the major streets across the country as part of a sensitisation of workers and Nigerians for November 6, 2018 commencement date of a indefinite nationwide strike to compel the government to peg a new minimum wage at N30,000 (about $84), threatening “no N30,000 new minimum wage, no votes” in 2019 general elections.

Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, had declared Tuesday, a day of national mourning and sensitisation of workers and Nigerians ahead of the November 6, start date of a nationwide strike.

The federal and state governments have since declined any N30,000 minimum wage agreement.

In Lagos, protests rally which kicked off from Ojuelegba Bridge, through Ikorodu Road to Gani Fewehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota, crippled activities on the ever busy road causing a heavy gridlock on both sides of the road and its environs.

The protesters displayed placards with inscriptions such as “No minimum wage, No work from November 6”, “Minimum Wage of N30, 000 not negotiable”, “Minimum wage will boost Nigerian economy’, “Upward review of Minimum wage will not trigger inflation”, “Ngige and governors do not own Nigeria, Nigeria belongs to all workers,, “N30,000 minimum wage, no more, no less” among others.

Addressing the protesters at the Maryland roundabout and at Ojota freedom park, leaders of the protesters and President of ULC, Joe Ajaero, declared that from November 6, it would be total war with government until the N30,000 new minimum wage was achieved.

According to him, whatever the governors meeting yesterday came out with would be of no effect unless they agreed to implement the N30,000 minimum wage, insisting that there would be no more negotiation because the Tripartite committee appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, had finished its assignment and submitted its report to the President.

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He said: “We are on the road because of government insensitivity to the welfare of workers and Nigerians. We are on the road to sensitise workers and Nigerians about the November 6 commencement date of a nationwide indefinite strike. We are on the road to tell the government that enough is enough. The November 6 will be the mother of all strikes in Nigeria. Posterity will judge us if we fail to rise up to defend Nigerian workers. We are on the road to the government that no N30, 000 minimum wage, no votes. There is no good healthcare and electricity tariff is far more than 18,000 minimum wage and the tariff continue to increase.”

Similarly, a Vice President of NLC, Amechi Asugwuni told Nigerians to stock food stuff and other necessities ahead of the November 6 strike.

Stock up foods, Labours tells Nigerians
According to him, “the struggle is to defend the people of this country and the mourning day is to sensitise workers and other Nigerians to stockpile food stuff and other necessities in their houses because once we commence the strike, there will be no going back except government agree to our terms and conditions. The minimum wage is a legitimate right for Nigerian workers.

In Abuja, labour leaders frowned at Federal Government’s delay in the process of promulgating new National Minimum Wage for workers in the country. “

Speaking, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said “We call on the Federal Government to take necessary steps to ensure the enactment of a new national minimum wage act as we cannot guarantee industrial peace and harmony.”

Wabba explained that the new national minimum wage was both legally and materially due since 2016, saying “the Minimum Wage Act prescribes a five yearly cycle of review.”

He also said coupled with the delay, the increase in the pump price of petroleum products by over 85 per cent and the devaluation of the Naira by 100 per cent in 2016, have massively affected the cost of living.

According to him, the exchange rate and inflation rose to an all-time high, rendering the N18,000 unjustifiable as basis for continued national minimum wage. “Given the realities of our economic condition, the least any worker should earn is N30,000,” he said.

Also, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, TUC president, said implementation of the national minimum wage was imperative as workers in the country were faced with hard times.

Kaigama called on the Federal and State Governments to do the needful as N30,000 was not too much for them to pay workers as minimum wage. “They cannot say they do not have money; the political office holders have the money and also the government. We also know how much they are putting into politics and the forthcoming general elections.

“Workers are not slaves but rather they create the wealth of the nation, they cannot continue to suffer. After all the minimum wage is long overdue,” he said.

Bayelsa ready to pay N30,000
In Yenagoa, Bayelsa State Government assured civil servants in the state of its readiness to pay the N30,000 minimum wage being demanded by the organised labour if it was generally accepted.

Governor Seriake Dickson gave the assurance yesterday in Government House while receiving protesting delegation of leaders and members of organised labour.

Represented by the State Head of Service, Mr Luca Obiri, he noted that already the state government had set up modalities for the implementation of whatever decision reached with Labour.

His words: “I want to assure Bayelsa workers that government is in support of your quest for new minimum wage. The N30,000 minimum wage will be implemented by the state government.

In anticipation of that he (the governor) has directed the Head of Service and the state Finance Committee to start working out the modalities for the implementation of whatever decision that is agreed will be adhere to.”

I will pay any amount adopted as minimum wage—Ortom
In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom promised to pay any amount agreed upon by the negotiating committee on minimum wage.

Ortom spoke in Makurdi, when members of organised labour visited him to register their support for the upward review of wages.

Ortom, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Terwase Orbunde, said that he was not against the upward review of workers’ minimum wages “in spite of the current economic challenges bedeviling the country.”

He said: “I will work in line with the outcome of the new minimum wage committee. I am known for championing improved welfare for workers. I did it when I was the Chairman of Guma Local Government Area. When I came on board as governor, primary school teachers were not receiving the N18,000.00 minimum wage. I stepped up their salaries without waiting for them to mount pressure on me to do so. I wanted them to be at par with other civil servants in the state.”

Credit: Vanguard Nigeria