Minimum wage: NLC, TUC begin indefinite strike Monday

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday declared an indefinite strike effective Monday, June 2 after the latest negotiation with the federal government on the new minimum wage and the recent hike of electricity tariff ended in a deadlock.

Organised labour rejected the N60,000 which government and the private sector said was the best they could offer under the circumstance.

The amount was the same tabled during the resumed negotiation on Tuesday.

Joe Ajaero and Festus Osifo, Presidents of NLC and TUC respectively, told reporters that the strike would commence at midnight of June 2, 2024.

They asked affiliates and state councils, civil society organisations, market men and women and the general populace to prepare for a decisive action.

Osifo said government and organised private sector (OPS) maintained the N60,000 they presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

The government added N3,000 to the N57,000 it proposed last week, taking the total figure to N60,000.

At the same meeting, labour lowered its demand by removing N3,000 from the N497,000 it proposed last week.

In effect, it wants the minimum wage to be N494,000 per month.

The 37-member tripartite committee on the new minimum wage set up by the federal government has been locked in talks since the committee was inaugurated in January.

To fast track the negotiation process, the NLC and TUC on May Day gave the committee till the end of last month to wrap up the negotiation.

That ultimatum expired last night without an agreement.

Speaking during the press conference, Osifo said: “We shall be commencing an indefinite strike effective from Sunday midnight of June 2, 2024 and this strike will be indefinite and it will continue until we have a new minimum wage and until the government is serious.

“We are united on this because we believe this is the way forward. We believe, as we have done over the years, to consistently stand with the working class of Nigeria because they have been battered since May 29, 2023 till date.”

In a joint address, the NLC and TUC expressed “grave concern and disappointment over the federal government failure to conclude and pass into law a new National Minimum Wage Act and reverse the vexatious hike in electricity tariff to N65/kwh.”

They said: “Today’s meeting further demonstrated the un-seriousness and apparent contempt with which the Nigerian state holds the demands of Nigerian workers and people. No Governor was present and ministers absent except the Minister of State for Labour and Employment who doubles as a conciliator.

“There was none present on the side of the government with appropriate authority to commit them to any outcome; in essence, government abandoned the meeting. We consider this disdainful and lack of commitment to a successful National Minimum Wage negotiation exercise.

“You will all recall that during the last May Day celebration on the 1st of May2024, we issued a clear ultimatum to the Federal Government, demanding the conclusion of this critical exercise by the end of the month. However, there has been no significant progress or commitment from the government towards meeting this demand.

“We also demanded a reversal of the last hike in electricity tariff to N225/kwh back to N65/kwh and stoppage of the apartheid categorisation of consumers into Bands.

Read Also:

BREAKING: NLC protest, seals off Jos DisCo

“We carried out a nationwide one day protest on the 13th day of May 2024,giving the government until the last day of this month to take action, but the government has not entirely shown any positive response despite the national outrage at this insensitive hike.

“Nigerian workers, who are the backbone of our nation’s economy, deserve fair and decent wages that reflect the current economic realities.

“It is disheartening that despite our repeated calls and the clear ultimatum issued, the government continues to neglect its responsibility to the workforce.

“It has, rather than engage in a dialogue, persistently raised its attack dogs to seek to denigrate and intimidate trade union leaders.

“It continues to remain our belief that the people ought to be the only reason for governance and nothing else. Government must therefore seek the welfare of the people at all times, and refusal to put the people first compels all patriots to take the right step in assisting the government to govern well.

“The hike in electricity tariff impoverishes further the already suffering people and denies them the right to decent living.

“Instead of taking remedial action or engaging in a meaningful dialogue, Nigerians were visited with a barrage of the usual propaganda.

“In the light of this persistent inaction, we, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), hereby issue a notice of commencement of an indefinite nationwide strike to the Federal Government.

“We reiterate that since the National Minimum Wage negotiation exercise has not been concluded and the agreed wage passed into law; the hike in electricity tariff not reversed and categorisation of consumers into Bands not stopped as demanded; Nigerian workers are compelled by these failures to embark on an indefinite nationwide industrial action beginning on Monday, the 3rd of June, 2024 to press home our demands.

“The NLC and TUC are united in this cause, and we call on all our affiliates and state councils, Civil Society Organisations, market men and women and the general populace to prepare for a decisive action.

“We cannot and will not accept any further delays or excuses. The welfare of Nigerian workers and people is non-negotiable, and we are ready to take all necessary steps to ensure that their rights are protected and their voices heard.

“We regret the inconveniences this refusal of the federal government to heed our demands may cause all of us, but we assure you of our determination to pursue this cause to its conclusion.”

President Bola Tinubu, through the Vice President, Kashim Shettima, on January 30, 2024 inaugurated the tripartite committee to come up with a new minimum wage.

Membership cuts across federal and state governments, the private sector, and organised labour.

Shettima, during the committee’s inauguration, urged the members to “speedily” arrive at a resolution and submit their reports early.

“This timely submission is crucial to ensure the emergence of a new minimum wage,” Shettima said.

He also urged collective bargaining in good faith, emphasising contract adherence and encouraging consultations outside the committee.

The 37-man committee is chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Goni Aji.

NECA: Jobs can only be guaranteed when businesses are alive

The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) yesterday expressed disappointment at the failure of the tripartite committee to arrive at a consensus on the new minimum wage.

The Director-General of NECA, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, said in a statement on behalf of the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) that contrary to some views the committee was set up to “negotiate a new National Minimum Wage and not a living wage.”

It was also not set up to adjust salaries, he said, stressing that “minimum wage is the wage that no employer should pay below, either in the private or public sector.”

He said the position of OPSN was essentially to “arrest the ongoing job losses and continuous shut-down of businesses in Nigeria. It is important to state that jobs can only be guaranteed when businesses are alive and sustainable.”

On the decision of organised labour to walk out on the negotiation and declare indefinite strike, the NECA DG said: “While it is within the right of organised labour to embark on any action it deems fit and necessary to achieve its objectives, organised businesses will also, within extant legislation, do all that is necessary to protect enterprise sustainability and protect jobs.”

He said organised businesses themselves were facing a myriad of challenges such as multiple taxes, levies and fees, astronomical power costs and rising interest rates and exchange rates and pointed out that the offer of N60,000, a 100 per cent increase in the National Minimum Wage, was a sacrifice on the part of the Organised Private Sector.

He said: “While it is important to note that socio-economic conditions over the years have rendered the N30,000 minimum wage inadequate, the same conditions have incapacitated many businesses, fatally affecting their sustainability and ability to pay.”

He warned that the demand by organised labour at this period could cripple small and medium enterprises and render many other businesses comatose.

He added: “It is important to strike a balance between workers’ needs, the current economic situation, ability to pay and productivity. At N30,000 per month, many state governments and local government areas are unable to pay.

“An astronomical increase as being demanded will make compliance practically impossible. We urge government to fast-track the implementation of its interventions to make life more bearable for workers, businesses, and Nigerians in general.

“Any disruption of organised businesses’ activities could have serious consequences on job security and the sustainability of businesses.

“Businesses need to be alive and stay sustainable for jobs to be created and for government to generate taxes.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *