There is anxiety in government circles over Labour’s plan to go on strike. The action is to push the demand for a new minimum wage.
The Federal Government has invited workers’ representatives to a meeting in a move to avert the impending industrial action.
Labour is angry that the Presidency is yet to transmit the New National Minimum Wage Bill to the National Assembly.
Labour has demanded N30, 000 for the least paid worker.
Speaking with The Nation, the President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said government’s dilly-dallying on the issue has strained its relationship with Labour and left it with no option other than a major national strike.
The protest, according to the NLC president, is to express anger and total disatisfaction over the delay by the Federal Government in transmitting, enacting and implementing the new national minimum wage of N30,000.
Wabba said the strike has become the last option for the workers, adding that labour craves the understanding and support of all Nigerians and businesses.
The tripartite committee which comprised representatives of the federal and state government, the organised private sector and the organised labour, had reportedly reached a compromise on N30, 000.
Labour had initially demanded N66,500, Federal Government N24, 500 while state governors proposed N22,500.
Governors under the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) have declared that states were not in financial position to pay.
According to chairman of NGF, Governor Abdulaziz Yari, no attempt to impose the sum would strangle the states.
The president of TUC, Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Ozo-Eson, who said they might attend, however, said the meeting would not change the labour position on the proposed nationwide protest and strike.
According to Kaigama, TUC would only attend the meeting as a matter of formality.
“Of course when they invite us, we will attend. We do not believe in any technical committee, we’ve gone past that. During the tripartite committee sittings, we set up technical committee.
‘’If the technical committee they want to set up is on minimum wage, we’ve gone beyond that.”
He maintained that organised labour only suspended its strike on the wage in November last year and would no longer give any notice on its proposed strike.
“The three centres are going to meet any moment from now, we will not give any date, but (we would) just commence the suspended strike,” he said.
But President of ULC, Joe Ajaero said labour has no reason to meet with the minister or Federal Government anymore since President Buhari had made it known in his budget speech that he wanted to set up a technical committee
“How can Ngige send us such an invitation, we’ve made it known to him that we will not be attending the meeting.
“Ngige can meet with his staff and aides. Labour had made it clear to the government that no other submission would be accepted except what was recommended by the tripartite committee.”
Ajaero said the meeting was diversionary and labour would not be distracted.
“The December 31 deadline given to the government to send the bill to the National Assembly has passed; our next step is to meet and harmonise our next move any moment from now,” he said.
NLC General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson said Labour will not embark on an industrial action secretly.
The organised labour has expressed serious concern over the recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which stated that the number of persons unemployed in the country has increased by 3.3million year on year from 17.6million in Q3 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018. They are worried that the unemployment rate is likely to increase in 2019.
The NLC charges Federal Government to create more jobs to reduce poverty rate.
Ayuba Wabba, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called on the Federal Government to ensure sustainable jobs to reduce the rate of poverty in the country.
He said government must implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve the lives of the people and develop the country.
He said sustainable jobs would only be available if the government created conducive environment for industries to thrive.
”We cannot be importers and consumers of what we do not produce. There is the need to resuscitate closed factories such as textile and make business environment competitive and attractive,” he said.
The NLC president said government should also reduce electricity tariff to boost production and make businesses thrive.
Similarly, Dr. Mohammed Yinusa, President, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), who spoke on the nation’s poverty index, said government needed more interventions to raise the living standard of the people.
Yinusa commended government’s pro-poor policies, but said government at all levels should pay attention to the development of critical indices of the Human Development Index (HDI).