Minimum Wage: Akpabio, Abbas, Akume, Edun Fail To Stop Indefinite Strike

Date:

.As NLC, TUC begin planned industrial action today 

.It’s illegal, AGF tells unions 

.Strike ill-timed, unnecessary – NECA

By Uche Onyeali and Yahaya Umar, Abuja 

Eleventh hour meeting involving President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio,  and Speaker of House of Representatives, Honourable Tajudeen  Abbas, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, Minister For Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Chief Wale Edun, among other stakeholders, to stop an indefinite strike by organised labour  ended in deadlock as Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, begin an industrial action to press for a new national minimum wage.

Akpabio, told the unions led by NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Fetus Usifo, that it would be difficult to negotiate with government during strike actions.

According to him, “I do know that Mr President had set up a very serious committee to negotiate with Labour.  The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of Service who are here with us have been deeply involved in the negotiations”.

“So the leadership of both Chambers decided to invite everybody here so we can listen to all parties. We are not taking over the work of the executive. We are not taking over the work of the NLC and TUC. But we just said we should hear from you.

“It is very difficult to negotiate for peace in an atmosphere of crisis. If you are on strike it means you are no longer negotiating. And the Nigerian people are desirous in having a closure to the issue of the minimum wage.

“And the government too is very eager to meet the yearnings of the people to a reasonable extent based on the current economic realities. Hence there was need for us to call all parties to the table and to hear from you”, he stated.

The leadership of the unions, however told the National Assembly that it would table its appeal before its members and report back.

Aljazirah Nigeria reports that NLC and the TUC, last Friday declared indefinite strike commencing from Monday, June 3, 2024, after its meeting with the federal government over the minimum wage did not produce any solution.

Hence, the unions have activated the indefinite strike announced last Friday, after rejecting N60,000 minimum wage against its N494,000 demand.

Meanwhile, Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) has told the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, that their planned June 3 strike action was illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.

Fagvemi, in a letter to the leadership of the two unions on the consequences of their actions in respect of the planned strike, faulted the mode of its declaration as being in gross violation of the labour laws.

He AGF therefore warned them to shelve the strike and return to the negotiation table so as not to run foul of the law guiding labour dispute.

Fagvemi, who cited various relevant laws, insisted that both the NLC and TUC ought to have served a 15-day notice on the federal government before contemplating any strike action.

He said the two bodies also violated the International Labour Organisation, ILO, laws because the conditions precedent for declaration of strike action were neither employed nor met.

He said the order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria which barred the NLC and TUC from going on strike is still in force and binding on all parties in the labour dispute.

The letter personally signed by the AGF emphasised that the order of the court had not been appealed by the NLC and TUC neither was it stayed or set aside and counselled the worker’s leaders to respect the subsisting court order.

He declared the planned strike action as premature, illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional and pleaded with the workers not to proceed with it.

The AGF, however, suggested that the two labour unions proceed to the negotiation meeting already adjourned to a date that would be communicated to them.

The letter is copied to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, National Security Adviser NSA, Inspector General of Police IGP and Director General, State Security Service SSS.

Also, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, has urged organised labour to shelve its planned indefinite strike as it could reverse the recent marginal gains on the economy.

NECA’s Director-General, Mr Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, who made the call in a statement at the weekend, said the strike could incapacitate the private sector.

Oyerinde said that the call for strike was ill-timed and ill-advised, and would not only impoverish Nigerians, “but also escalate the already worrisome unemployment situation”.

“The call for an indefinite strike even when the Tripartite Committee has not completed its proceedings, is ill-advised.

“The committee, being a tripartite committee, with equal right and privileges, was to consult extensively and make recommendations to the President and Commander-in-Chief.

“The president’s final approval will, thereafter, be passed to the National Assembly for legislative action before the president will give assent.

“Aggrieved parties are at liberty to make representations and freely express their views at the National Assembly before a new National Minimum Wage Bill will be passed into law.

“While it is normal for parties to have divergent opinion, the President and Commander-in-Chief has the final authority.

“It is, therefore, worrisome that Organised Labour would call for an indefinite strike when these processes are yet to be concluded,“ he said.

The director-general, however, said that the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria, OPSN, would do all that was necessary, within extant legislation, to protect its interest and survival, should the strike commence.

He said that OPSN remains committed to a new national minimum wage.

He observed, however, that in the current macro-economic circumstances, the odds were greatly stacked against organised businesses with consequential effects on job security.

“It is our strong view that any amount beyond what the OPSN offered, could further escalate the already worsened health of many businesses, especially the Small and Medium Enterprises, and drive others to the precipice.

“That situation could potentially compound the bad unemployment rate and worsen the insecurity situation in the country,” he said.

Oyerinde, also called on the Federal Government to fast-track the implementation of reliefs for Nigerians, while reversing, without delay, the recent hike in electricity tariff.

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