By Olisemeka Obeche, Ostar Eze & Nkechinyere Oginyi
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has directed its state councils to prepare for a nationwide industrial action on October 16 if its ongoing negotiation with the federal government breaks down again.
In a circular it despatched to state councils, it declared that breakdown in the proposed negotiations slated for October 15 with the federal government would push the organised labour, made up of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Joint National Public Service, Negotiating Committee (JNPSNC) to commence an indefinite industrial action.
Meanwhile, the Anambra state NLC chairman, Comrade Jerry Nnubia and his Ebonyi state counterpart, Comrade Leonard Nkah, have declared the readiness of their members to join the nationwide strike.
Nnubia, while reacting to the circular, accused the federal government of lack of commitment to the implementation of the new N30,000 national minimum wage.
According to him, “The new minimum wage had been approved for several months now and the excuse the federal government is giving as it concerned lack of funds shows that priority is not given to the issue. All the federal government needs to do is to reduce the cost of governance and introduce some frugality and the new minimum wage would be paid effortlessly. We would definitely join the strike action if no conclusion is met at the October 15 meeting.”
Comrade Nkah, on the other hand, said he would be attending a meeting in Abuja on Tuesday during which a decision on the workers demand would be reached.
“There is a meeting that will be going on Tuesday in Abuja which I will be attending. If the meeting says we should call out our workers for the strike, we will do that. In fact, we are just rising from a meeting in the state.”
He noted that the Ebonyi state government had declared their readiness to comply with any directive from the national negotiation team and that it would adopt that template in approaching the Ebonyi state government for implementation.
“The governor has accepted to pay, even since last year; so there is a template that will arise from the Abuja negotiation.
“Ebonyi workers should be patient and ready to pay the sacrifice because it is not easy. ”
Orient Daily recalls that the organised labour demanded 29 per cent salary increase for officers on salary level 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade level 15 to 17. The federal government, on the other hand, presented a proposal of 11 per cent salary increase for officers on grade level 07 to14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers of grade level 15 to 17.
Following the lingering dispute over implementation, the NLC, TUC and the JNPSNC have declared their readiness to shut down the country should an agreement not be reached with the federal government on the Consequential Adjustment of Salaries as a result of the New National Minimum Wage of N30,000.
The presidency had, on May 14, inaugurated the Relativity and Consequential Adjustment Committee which, in turn, set up a technical sub-committee to work out a template for the adjustment of salaries of public service employees.
However, government and labour have failed to reach an agreement over relativity and consequential adjustments for the implementation of the new minimum wage more than six months after it was signed into law.
A former president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr Peter Esele, has urged Buhari government to respect the terms of agreement reached with the organised labour on the new minimum wage. Esele warned that failure by government to do so would undermine the spirit and letter of the Minimum Wage Act already signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. He described as unfortunate, the recent remarks by the minister of labour, Dr Chris Ngige, that the federal government could not implement the consequential adjustments in the payment of the new minimum wage as proposed by labour.
“Does it mean that the various state agencies involved in the negotiations didn’t tabulate the figures to know what was payable or not? If the answer is no, that is dereliction of duty and appropriate sanction should be meted out.
“The consequential adjustments which is another sticking point are known to the tripartite committee (government, employers and labour). So, it is expected to go seamlessly. But, sadly, as with everything in Nigeria, it must be fought for, even if agreed upon.
“I foresee a strike action. Hopefully the president, his team and the organised labour can find a way out to avoid industrial action,” he said.