The Nigeria Labour Congress has said it will no longer enter into any negotiation with the government on a minimum wage for workers.
NLC, which is one of the umbrella bodies for workers, made the position of labour known on Sunday, even as it declared that workers would commence a nationwide strike on Tuesday as scheduled.
The General Secretary of the NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, disclosed this during an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday.
He said, “The strike is going on. Nothing has changed. The strike will begin on Tuesday. That is the directive that has been given. It will be a total strike.”
Asked if oil workers would join the strike, Ozo-Eson said, “All trade unions in the country have agreed to go on strike and we expect every union to go on strike from Tuesday.”
On negotiations between the Congress and the Federal Government, Ozo-Eson said, “Negotiations have ended. Yes, we have a meeting of the tripartite committee on Monday and we will attend as long as it is to sign the report of what has been agreed. We will sign that so that it can be submitted to the government. We will not change our position.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had on November 27, 2017 approved the appointment of a 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee for negotiations on a new national minimum wage for the country.
The committee comprised representatives of the government, organised labour and the private sector.
The organised labour collectively demanded that the minimum wage be increased from N18,000 to N65, 000 but all parties were said to have agreed to N30,000 after over a year of negotiations.
However, the government announced N24,000, a move which caused the unions to declare a strike.
The crisis deepened last week when the Nigeria Governors Forum reviewed the minimum wage further to N22, 500.
When reminded that the National Industrial Court had reportedly barred the unions from embarking on strike, the NLC general secretary said the body had not been served with the court processes and was therefore unaware of the development.
He said, “We are not aware of any court order and we have not received anything from the courts. We have not been put on notice and so we are not aware of any court order. We have given the required notice of strike; we have given the required time of notice and we will after the expiration of that notice proceed on strike unless the government does what it is expected before the strike begins.”
Justice Sanusi Kado of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja had on Friday reportedly given an order stopping the strike following an ex parte application moved on behalf of the Federal Government by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Dayo Apata.
The judge said the order of interim injunction was made due to the urgency of the matter and the need to protect the overall interest of the public. He directed that the orders stopping the planned strike be immediately served on both the NLC and the TUC.
Labour leaders shun parley with FG
Just as labour leaders made the position of workers known, Abuja members of the organised labour on Sunday shunned a meeting called by the Federal Government as part of efforts to stop the nationwide strike.
But despite the failure of representatives of the labour unions to attend the meeting, some government officials and members of the organised private sector met behind closed doors at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, and some permanent secretaries.
Mustapha, who spoke before the meeting went into closed session, gave an indication that the tripartite committee on national minimum wage set up by the Federal Government would be concluding works on its report on Monday.
He said the Federal Government was waiting for the report to commence processes leading to the enactment of a law on the new minimum wage. He explained that the report would still go through the National Economic Council and the Council of State before an Executive Bill would be sent to the National Assembly on the issue. The SGF said the outstanding issues left for the committee were to harmonise the 15th chapter of the report, harmonise figures and submit report to the President.
Mustapha said, “I assure you that the government is waiting for the report and will immediately set up processes required for implementation. Hopefully, their work would be concluded when they meet tomorrow (Monday) and append their signatures to the report.
“They will then transmit to me and I will seek an audience with the President to present it to him. The report will go through NEC, Council of State before a draft executive bill will be sent to NASS.
“I am awaiting the report of the committee. They will meet tomorrow (Monday) at 11am. Mustapha said ability to pay was critical in taking a decision on the minimum wage. He noted that a lot of states were still finding it difficult to pay the current minimum wage. He recalled that the Federal Government instituted bailouts for the purpose of helping the states to meet up.
Judiciary workers declare intention to join
Meanwhile, judiciary workers under the aegis of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria said on Sunday they would abide by the directive of the NLC to proceed with the industrial action.
The President of JUSUN, Mr Marwan Adamu, told The PUNCH that since his union was not a party to the suit filed by the Federal Government, judiciary workers would comply with any directive issued by the NLC.
Responding to our correspondent’s questions on Sunday, the JUSUN President whose union also has workers of the National Industrial Court as members, said, “We are an affiliate of NLC and we are complying with the directive of the NLC.”
On the case reportedly before the court, he said, “We are not a party to the suit as JUSUN and the NLC said they had not been served with the court order.
“The NLC is not a party to the suit, the Federal Government did not sue us; we are an affiliate of NLC and NLC leadership said they had not been served.”
…Health workers too
Similarly, health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Unions have expressed their intention to join the strike.
The President of JOHESU, Biobelemoye Josiah, stated the position of the union during an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday.
Josiah said, “The unions under JOHESU are all part of the strike and we in the Medical and Health Workers Union have issued a circular to our state councils to join the strike and we will issue a statement on Monday.
“As affiliates, we will join. The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives will join; Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Senior Staff Association of University Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions will also join.”
Aviation, oil unions threaten to shut airports, others
Similarly, workers in the oil, gas and aviation sectors on Sunday vowed to join the nationwide industrial action on Tuesday.
According to the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, the strike will shut down Nigeria’s airspace and ground the oil sector.
The President, ATSSSAN, Illitrus Ahmadu, told our correspondent that all the unions in the aviation sector were in support of the strike, saying they had a meeting recently where they all agreed to join the industrial action.
He said, “The four major unions in the aviation sector were at a meeting in Lagos where strategies were perfected towards the strike and we are affiliated to the labour centres and once there is a directive for us to embark on strike, we are under obligation to comply.
“So our status now is that of compliance, until there is a contrary directive from our trade centres. Therefore simply put, all the aviation unions are to join the strike in the event labour and the government are unable to resolve the issues.”
Ahmadu added, “However, if there is any information to the contrary, the labour centres will let us know. You are aware that there is an issue of whether the government got an injunction from the National Industrial Court restraining labour from embarking on the strike.
“What we were informed as of Friday was that labour had not been served and as a result we should discountenance anything about the injunction. But if labour is served and we are asked to stand down, then we will stand down. That is our position.”
On oil workers’ position, the National Public Relations Officer, PENGASSAN, Fortune Obi, stated that the union was an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress and would abide by the dictates of the TUC on the proposed strike.
He said, “PENGASSAN is an affiliate of the TUC and the reality is that the Central Working Committee of PENGASSAN has not met to look at the issue holistically. However, as an affiliate, we must abide by the decision of our centre.
“TUC, NLC and ULC are the three labour centres in Nigeria. We are an affiliate to TUC and whatever agreement is reached by the congress, we have to abide by it. But before PENGASSAN will go on total shutdown, we would have looked at the issues. It is also important to state that PENGASSAN is not against minimum wage increase.”
Obi added, “The fact, however, is that we work in a very critical and safety-conscious environment where we consider all our actions before we take any action that will impact on processes.
“Our industry is a very critical one and we have to look at how to manage the situation so that if, for instance, the government agrees to the demands and the strike is called off, say in the early hours of 6am, how then do we manage our production and projects?”
Kano NLC asks workers to commence strike
In Kano State, the Nigeria Labour Congress chapter, on Sunday, ordered workers in the state to embark on an indefinite strike from Tuesday and threatened to ground Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport by preventing flight operations.
The Congress said it would be unwise for workers to cast their votes for any government, which would not implement the N30,000 minimum wage being demanded by workers.
While addressing newsmen at the state NLC headquarters on Sunday, the state Chairman, Ado Minjibir, said he would only give room for skeletal services in some critical sectors. .
“I am now directing the entire workforce, both at the federal, state and local government areas to commence strike from 12am on Tuesday in compliance with the nationwide strike declared to assert NLC’s demand for a N30,000 minimum wage”
According to him, if the Federal Government invokes the doctrine of “no work ,no pay,” the workers would also invoke the doctrine of “no N30,000 minimum wage, no vote” in the elections scheduled for 2019.