Minimum wage: FG pleads for time as indefinite strike begins Monday

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The Federal Government has pleaded with Organised Labour to reconsider its decision to embark on an indefinite strike from Monday, June 3, 2024, in protest against the government’s refusal to raise the proposed minimum wage from N60,000.

The interest of the masses should be the top priority of Organised Labour, the Federal Government stressed.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Idris Mohammed, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH.

While describing the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress as partners in Project Nigeria, Mohammed noted that industrial action was not the solution to the ongoing negotiation for a new minimum wage for workers.

This came hours after Organised Labour declared a nationwide strike, which would begin on Monday, June 3, 2024, over the Federal Government’s refusal to raise the proposed minimum wage from N60,000.

The President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, stated that the indefinite strike would begin by midnight on Monday.

The NLC leader, who read from a jointly prepared speech alongside his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, expressed what he described as “grave concern and disappointment” over the Federal Government’s failure to conclude and pass into law a new National Minimum Wage Act, and reverse the hike in electricity tariff to N65/kWh.

Ajaero noted that the Friday meeting between the government and Labour further demonstrated the lack of seriousness and apparent contempt with which the Nigerian state held the demands of Nigerian workers and people.

“No governor was present and ministers were 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, the government abandoned the meeting.

“We consider this disdainful and shows a lack of commitment to a successful National Minimum Wage negotiation exercise.”

Ajaero further noted that during the last May Day celebration, Organised Labour issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government, demanding the conclusion of the minimum wage negotiation 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 from N225/kWh back to N65/kWh, and stoppage of the apartheid categorisation of consumers into bands.

“We carried out a nationwide one-day protest on May 13, 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 the insensitive hike.

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

The labour leader further stated that it was disheartening that despite the repeated calls and the clear ultimatum issued, the government continued to neglect its responsibility to its workforce.

He noted that the government, 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. The government must therefore seek the welfare of the people at all times. The refusal to put the people first compels all patriots to take the right step in assisting the government to govern well.

We gave an ultimatum on May Day that if by the end of May, we did not have a new minimum wage that would take a worker home, we would not be able to guarantee industrial peace.

“We are sticking to that ultimatum,” Osifo said.

President Tinubu had, on January 30, 2024, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, inaugurated a 37-member tripartite committee to come up with a new minimum wage.

With its membership cutting across the Federal, and state governments, the private sector, and Organised Labour, the panel is to recommend a new national minimum wage for the country.

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 President of NUPENG, William Akporeha, said the union would fully participate in the strike, being an affiliate of the NLC.

“NUPENG is part of NLC and shall be fully involved,” he told our correspondent.

Similarly, the National Public Relations Officer, PENGASSAN, Kingsley Udoidua, said the petroleum union would join the strike.

“PENGASSAN is an affiliate of TUC. We are obligated to participate,” he stated.

Also, the acting Secretary-General, NUEE, Ogochukwu Igwebike, said electricity workers would begin strike from Monday.




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