Labour unions plan nationwide rallies on Jan 9 with the aim of calling a general strike over minimum wage

ORGANISED labour is considering calling a strike soon following the federal government's refusal to implement an agreement to increase the national minimum wage to the N30,000 ($62) from the current N18,000 agreed between the unions and ministers.


Over the last few months, labour unions and the government have been negotiating through the Tripartite Committee on the New National Minimum Wage, with both sides coming up with different interpretations of their agreement. According to the unions, it has been agreed to raise the minimum wage to N30,000 a month but in October, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said it could only afford N22,500.


Nigeria had been on the verge of a general strike late last year but in November, labour unions called off their planned nationwide industrial action after signing an agreement with the government. Having settled for a figure of N30,000, President Muhammadu Buhari said the federal government would soon transmit an executive bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.


Since then, however, the government has not acted on the matter and the labour unions are unhappy about this lack of action. There is now anxiety in government circles over Labour’s plans to go on strike, so the federal government has invited workers’ representatives to a meeting  tomorrow to avert any impending industrial action.


Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) general secretary Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said that labour will not embark on an industrial action secretly. He added that the NLC has asked its state councils to hold rallies in city centres as from January 8 to sensitise Nigerians on the looming action.


Dr Ozo-Eson said: “The national executive committee approved that the protests should hold in all state capitals and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on  January 8 and mandates all industrial unions and state councils to fully mobilise workers and coordinate with other labour unions for this mother of all protests. The excuse that the National Assembly is on break does not hold water as the report of the tripartite committee has been with the president for about two months.


“Was the National Assembly on recess when the report was submitted? Didn’t the House of Representatives adopt a resolution calling on the president to transmit the bill? The notice expired on December 31 2018, when it was given, was the National Assembly on recess?


“We don’t do strike in secret. When we want to do our strike, we will publicly inform Nigerians. What we have directed state councils all over the country to do is that on January 8, they should hold sensitisation and mobilisation rallies across the country."


Ro avert industrial action, the government has invited the labour leadership to a meeting on Friday at the office of the labour and employment minister, Chris Ngige tomorrow to address the issues. Apart from Dr Ngige, the ministers of finance and that of budget & national planning are also expected at the meeting scheduled to begin at 10.30am.


Dr Ngige said that the attorney-general of the federation was studying the draft bill submitted by the tripartite committee along with the report to the president with a view to coming up with an executive bill which will be transmitted to National Assembly. It is believed that the government may have reached out to some influential Nigerians and former labour leaders, including All Progressives Congress national chairman Adams Oshiomhole to prevail on workers to drop the threat of strike.