NLC

Minimum Wage Deadline: Labour Braces for Showdown, FG Counters Move

A week ahead of the deadline given by the organised labour for the implementation of the new national minimum wage, the Federal Government on Wednesday stepped up efforts to stave off a nationwide strike.

Punch reports that government on Wednesday held two meetings with organised labour over workers’ threat to embark on an industrial action if the FG refused to accept their demand for a new minimum wage implementation by October 16, 2019.

The organised labour had at a meeting on October 2 asked the government to accept its demand on the consequential salary adjustment arising from the new minimum wage or face industrial action.

But on Wednesday, the organised labour said it had begun mobilisation of workers for the nationwide strike.

Also state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress expressed their readiness to join the strike, if the negotiation between the Federal Government and labour failed.

Before the organised labour met with the Federal Government on Wednesday, the General Secretary of Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Alade Lawal, during a meeting of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria in Abuja, said mobilisation of workers for a possible industrial action after October 16, 2019, had reached an advanced stage.

But the Federal Government held two separate closed-door meetings with labour leaders on Wednesday. Both meetings were presided over by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.

Other present at the Wednesday meetings were the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed; Minister of State, Finance, Budget and Planning, Clement Agba; Minister of State for Labour, Mr Festus Keyamo, the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan; Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze; acting Chairman, National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta; and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.

The labour leaders at the meetings were Deputy President of the NLC, Amaechi Asogwuni; General Secretary of the union, Emmanuel Ugboaja; acting Chairman of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council, Achaver Simon; Secretary of the union, Alade Lawal; and representatives of the Trade Union Congress.

A statement signed by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, stated the government team met members of the JNPSNC and organised labour separately.

“It was resolved that each group would hold further meetings to sort out all outstanding disagreements before a high level conclusive meeting to wrap up all discussions, paving the way for an equable implementation of the Consequential Adjustment of the Minimum Wage scheduled for Tuesday, October 15, 2019,” said the statement.

A source said the meetings were called to douse the tension created by the notice given by the workers’ union on a possible industrial action.

He said, “The purpose is to address the threat of labour and how the FG and labour can reach an amicable solution over the new minimum wage of N30,000. It is a closed-door meeting so only the government representatives and the union leaders are involved.”

The source said Ngige would meet members of the old committee that negotiated with the organised labour before negotiations collapsed.

Speaking at the ASCSN meeting in Abuja, Alade Lawal said that organised labour would not allow the FG to use what he described as divide and rule tactic to create division among workers.

He berated the FG for going public to announce that it had begun payment of the new minimum wage to workers at level one to six, noting that it was a ploy to gain cheap public sympathy on the issue and portray other categories of workers as greedy and inconsiderate.

He said, “As far as I am concerned, nothing has been implemented. What are they implementing? We are negotiating something and somebody went behind to start issuing one circular.

“As far as we are concerned, nothing has been done, and if you want to look at it, level one to three has been outsourced, how many people are there, so when you even look at the circular, it’s full of errors; as far as we are concerned, no circular has been issued.

“Look at this scenario, you have a salary structure, you have a ratio between the minimum and the maximum, when the minimum was N18,000, you have what you have at the maximum, then you have tilted the minimum to N30,000, are you going to leave the table there?

“It’s distortion, you don’t allow distortion and it’s not allowed anywhere in the world, and that is why you do consequential adjustment.

“Anytime from October 17, 2019, the leadership of labour will give directive to members nationwide on what to do. The measure of seriousness can only be seen if something concrete is done between now and the 16th of October, 2019; we are not part of government, we don’t know what they are doing.”

Explaining why labour leaders met, Lawal said, “The meeting is to mobilise our members towards the looming strike if the government does not accede to the demands of labour in respect of the consequential adjustment of salaries arising from the new national minimum wage.

“After October 16, we will give directives to our members nationwide. It is both the public and private sectors. You know that in labour parlance, an injury to one is injury to all. So, whether private sector has implemented or not, they will go on sympathy strike. It is going to be a national strike. It is not going to be limited to the public sector alone.”

Lawal described the meeting convened by the government for Wednesday as informal as no agreement could be signed from such an arrangement.

He said, “If you go through the communique issued by the TUC, the NLC and the JNPSNC, we are asking the government to reconvene the meeting of the committee and within one week, let the committee complete its assignment. So, the meeting for today (Wednesday), as far as we are concerned, is just a kind of an informal meeting, it is not a normal meeting.

“But as labour, we are not averse to discussions and consultations. They have yet to reconvene the main meeting of the committee. The minister is free to call us, we will go. We are hoping that he wants to use it to talk to the two sides before reconvening the meeting.

“You can’t sign any agreement in such kind of an informal meeting. Until you convene the meeting of the committee handling the negotiation of the consequential adjustment, nothing has happened. Anytime from October 17, the leadership of labour will give directives to members nationwide on what to do.”

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