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Minimum Wage: Confusion looms over nationwide strike today

…FG, Labour fail to reach agreement
…Govt insists on N24, 000, Labour wants N30, 000
The Federal Government and the Organised Labour have failed to reach a consensus over the new minimum wage for workers in the country.

The Chairman of the Tripartite Committee and a former Head of Service of the Federation, Ms Amal Pepple, said this on Monday after a nine hours marathon meeting, which was also attended by the leadership of the labour unions.

The unions had shunned the Sunday meeting attended by the Secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who has been hosting the series of meetings in his office.

Pepple said the committee will have to submit both the N30,000 minimum wage demanded by the unions and the N24,000 proposed by the government to President Muhammadu Buhari for onward submission to the National Assembly and urged the unions to shelve their planned strike.

She said. “We have concluded and we had a little challenge with what we call chapter five of our record and that is why we resort to negotiation again and the figures we concluded with and the committee has passed it to them.

The Federal Government suggested N24, 000, and Labour and organised private sector gave the figure of N30, 000. There is no stalemate, we have finished and signed it. What we are insisting is that the strike should be called off.

“N24, 000 and N30, 000 were the figures we used for the negotiation, remember that Labour gave the figure of N52, 500, but when we put that figure together, plus the figures we got from the states when we wrote to them, about 21 of them responded and some of them gave us figures which we put in the basket.”

On his part, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said the two figures will be forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said, “We are making progress. The governors figure should be the Federal Government’s figure, we are just trying to carry them along, that is why we made the discussion tripartite plus,

yes the figures are standing, you know that there are other processes, it has to go through the council of state, through an executive bill that will be transmitted to National Assembly.

The Federal Government figure of N24, 000 is noted, because it is based on affordability and the ability to pay.

“The Labour is satisfied, we are doing the needful. The only aspect of it now that we need to do, is to fix an appointment of handing over the report to Mr. President.

Yes, we are reconvening tonight (last night) because that appointment has to be gotten, the President has gone home and have taken the feelers to the place,

and as soon as we get the appointment, we will reconvene and know what to do. The state government has no choice now, because they have attached themselves to us.”

The leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the yet to be registered United Labour Congress (ULC) have yet to take a decision to shelve the strike.

None of the officials were willing to talk to newsmen when approached for comment.

Meanwhile, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has appealed to both the Federal Government and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)/Trade Union Congress (TUC) to work together in order to avert the proposed workers’ strike in the interest of Nigeria.

Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, urged the two sides to demonstrate sensitivity and concern for the plight of ordinary Nigerians who are already battling with the harsh economic conditions in the country.

He expressed appreciation for the patience displayed by the labour leaders as he noted that the issue of the new minimum wage could have been resolved long before now.

He said, “My Appeal is for the two sides to immediately move fast, shift from their extreme positions and create a new middle ground in the negotiations for the new minimum wage.

The shift in positions can be done even before the period of the commencement of the proposed strike action so that we do not further create tension within the economy.

“At this point, the interest of the people should be paramount in our minds. Any labour strike will cause inconvenience and discomfort to our people.

While the government and labour are representing the interest of the people, it is important to also ensure we avoid any action that will not show sensitivity and sensibility to the plight of the people”.

However, Justice Kado Sanusi of the National Industrial Court said in Abuja on Monday that it was not necessary to make a fresh order on the planned nationwide strike by the organised labour because its order of last Friday stopping the strike is subsisting.

The judge alluded to the order while ruling on a fresh suit filed by a civil society group, Kingdom International in Abuja on Tuesday.

The Daily Times recalls that the NIC had on Friday restrained the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TLC), Federal Government, Attorney General of Federation and Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Governors Forum from taking any further step on the planned industrial action pending the determination of substantive matter filed by the Federal Government.

On Monday, the civil society group, Kingdom International’s lawyer, Mr. Okere Nnamdi, had informed the court that he had filed his client’s ex parte motion alongside other processes on November 1.

He, therefore, urged the court to grant the prayers, including the one seeking an order of substituted service of the court processes on the governors whom he had joined as the 10th to the 45th defendants in the suit.

But the judge immediately asked the lawyer if it would still be necessary to proceed to hear the application, in view of the Friday’s order made by the same court.

Okere conceded that he was aware of the order made by the judge on Friday.

The Federal Government had filed its suit following the threat by the organised labour, comprising the National Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress,

and the United Labour Congress, to embark on strike if its demand for increase in the national minimum wage from N18, 000 to N 30, 000 was not met.

Contrary to the labour’s demand, the Federal Government said it could only pay N24, 000 as minimum wage and the state governors under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors ’ Forum, had stuck to N22, 500.

The lingering dispute between government and the labour prompted the Federal Government to seek and obtain the court order stopping the strike last Friday.

The fresh ex parte application by the group is seeking to stop labour from embarking on the strike and to also compel government to commence the process of paying the N30, 000 minimum wage was filed by a civil society group, Kingdom International.

In a related development, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has stated that the nationwide industrial action which the union started on Monday will continue indefinitely until government fulfills its demands.

The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, in a telephone interview on Monday, stated that it has given the government enough time to fulfill the Union’s demands, adding its demand was all about funding and making the nation’s tertiary institutions good for learning.

“Our only demand is funding of the tertiary institutions. Federal Government came out with the idea of funding education though tuition fee and we challenged them that students are already paying too much as it is.

That we should not add to the burden of the parents, majority cannot afford two square meals a day. We had the issue of source of funding. Dr. Wale Babalakin who is the head of the government team insisted that ASUU should not talk of source of funding through budget allocation.

“Budgetary allocation is the main source of funding education in the world. Every country decides what percentage will be allocated for education. We gave them example of Ghana. In the last 20 years, Ghana has never voted less than 20 per cent to education.

“The Minister of Education acknowledged that too during the Education retreat that was held last year. Later, they came up with the idea of Education Bank.

They forgot that education banking is not a new thing in the country. It was introduced in 1993 but became a flop,” he said.

He clarified that the union’s action was not in any way linked with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) strike action as ASUU’s struggle and strike action has been on since 2016.

“Our own action has been on since 2016. We had 2016 warning strike when we were asking for renegotiation and implementation of the 2009 agreement.

That time, we went to the National Assembly and the Honourable minister promised us that they will start renegotiation. We went back trusting them but the renegotiation lingered for 17 months without anything coming out of it,” he said.

He added that the Federal Government has not yet indicated interest to call them to a round table.

“We cannot force them to call us for a meeting. We believe that they will call us when they feel it is right. The first thing that government does in this type of situation is to ignore you. When it becomes uncomfortable, that is when they will call you,” he said.

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