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Minimum wage: Strike begins as FG, Labour talks end in deadlock

…Tripartite Committee reconvenes Oct 4 to conclude negotiation- FG
Apparently indicating collapse of talks between the Federal Government and its representatives, organised labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC), have directed workers to begin strike to demand a quick passage of a new minimum wage for workers nationwide.

President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, who stated this briefing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, also said that public offices, schools, banks and other workers are expected to comply with the strike action which will “shut down” the economy.

Wabba further claimed that the Federal Government did not intend to keep its promises of implementing a new minimum wage for workers and faulted the refusal of the Federal Government to reconvene the meeting of the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee to enable it conclude its work.

He said: “The action is in compliance with the decision of the various organs of the organised labour which endorsed the 14-day ultimatum served on the Federal Government by members of the Organised Labour who are members of the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage.

“The Labour organs further mandated the leadership to take all necessary steps including a warning strike in the first instance to compel the government to reconvene the meeting of the Committee in order to bring it to a logical conclusion.

In compliance with this mandate, all workers in the public and private sectors at all levels across the country have been directed to comply.

“Industrial unions, state councils, all worker organistions and our civil society allies have been directed to step up mobilisation of their members.

All public and private institutions, offices, banks, schools, public and private business premises including filling stations are to remain shut till further notice.

All those who mean well for this country are to see to the success of this action. Furthermore, this action is to remain in force until further directives are given.”

The National Minimum Wage Committee was inaugurated in November 2017 but commenced work in March 2018 with timelines to deliver on its mandate of arriving at a new national minimum wage in August/ September 2018.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, had in February this year during the 40th anniversary celebration of the NLC, assured workers that the new minimum wage would be put in place in September.

Wabba also said that claims by the Governors Forum that it cannot pay salary is due to high level of corruption, excessive cost of governance, indulgence in obscene lifestyle, white elephant projects and not lack of funds.

He said: “Indeed, Government ought to have commended workers and their unions for waiting patiently for two years before commencing negotiations for a new National Minimum Wage. We advise that our disposition should not be taken for granted”.

But the Federal Government on Wednesday said the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage will reconvene its meeting on October 4 to conclude its negotiation process.

Ngige stated this in Abuja on Wednesday while addressing journalists after a closed meeting with the leadership of organised labour.

The Labour Minister met with organised labour leaders who were also part of the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage to update them on government decision.

He said, “This administration is a labour friendly government and this, we have shown in many ways and we will continue to show it.

“One of the ways that we going to show it is by implementing the new national minimum wage and this we need to fix a base for the lowest paid worker in Nigeria.

“We are resuming next week, precisely on Thursday, October 4 and the meeting may spill over to October 5, as we normally use two days for the meeting.

“So, we are reconvening the meeting on the October 4, and all the process have being put in place”.

Ngige noted that the Labour leaders have been informed about it and are expected to communicate to their members, saying “we do not need to have any strike in the country”.

He assured organised labour that before the meeting on the October 4 all necessary demands by organised labour would have being factored in.

He said, “Part of our consultation means that the Economic Management Team which is managing the entire economy of the country would have something to work on.

“Already they are working on it and the National Salaries and Wages Commission and it is expected that before that meeting on October 4 they would have been through with the work.

“So everything is subject to negotiation, so on Thursday, October 4, we are going back to the negotiating table.”

Ngige added that the 14-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government did not get to him, “otherwise we would have addressed it scientifically the way it should be done”.

He also said that Federal Government was optimistic that the committee would wrap up in October and all other processes as it concerns the new national minimum wage for workers in the country.

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