Minimum Wage Standoff: An Ill Wind

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Organised  Labour, has announced its decision to embark on an indefinite nationwide industrial action today, June 3 over the failure of the Federal Government to conclude and pass into law a new National Minimum Wage Act, and its refusal to reverse the electricity tariff hike from N225/kwh to N65/kwh.

Shortly after their meeting with the Federal Government on the negotiation of a new minimum wage, Presidents of the Nigeria Labour Congress ,NLC, Joe Ajaero and the Trade Union Congress ,TUC, Festus Osifo, said their meeting with government representatives further demonstrated the meanness and apparent contempt with which the Nigerian state holds the demands of Nigerian workers.

They were piqued by the situation whereby no top personality was present on the side of the government with the appropriate authority to commit to any outcome, saying that it was indicative that the government was not sincere with the process.

The labour leadership specifically noted that no governor was present at the meeting, just as Ministers were absent except the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who doubles as a conciliator.

As a result, the trade unions announced the decision to proceed with an indefinite nationwide industrial action, which they stressed, was hinged on the persistent lack-lustre stance of the government.

The labour leaders alleged that there had been no significant progress or commitment from the government despite the ultimatum issued since May 1.

Addressing the electricity tariff hike, the labour leaders alleged that the government had refused to reverse the hike from N225/kwh to N65/kwh as demanded and refused to consult stakeholders before the tariff increase.

“Nigerian workers, who are the backbone of our nation’s economy, deserve fair and decent wages that reflect the current economic reality. It is disheartening that despite our repeated calls and the clear ultimatum issued, the government continues to neglect its responsibility to the workforce. It has, rather than engage in a dialogue, persistently raised its attack dogs to seek to denigrate and intimidate trade union leaders”, they said.

The labour unions stressed the need for the government to prioritise the people’s welfare at all times.

They noted that the electricity tariff hike had worsened the living conditions of citizens, denying them the right to decent living.

In light of its unmet demands, the unions issued a notice of commencement of an indefinite nationwide strike to the Federal Government.

They called on all their affiliates and state councils, civil society organisations ,CSOs, market men and women and the general populace to prepare for a decisive action.

However, government has said the demand by the Organised Labour was outrageous as paying over N600,000 minum wage beyond affordability and could further cripple the already fractured economy.

The National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, aligning with the unions has called on Bola Tinubu-led administration to accede to their demands.

In a statement its president, Pedro Obi, NANS stood in solidarity with the labour unions in their call for an increase in the national minimum wage.

While citing current economic hardship, the student body noted that the NLC demand is justified.

While we agree that inflation, the rising cost of living, and the continuous devaluation of the Naira have made it increasingly difficult for many families to meet their basic needs as cited by the various anti-government groups, the demand of over N494, 000 minimum wage at this time would be too lofty a demand. From a paltry N30,000 to N60,000 agreed to by the government, it follows that  there is a ground shifted and there are prospects to reach a meeting.

However, we urge the Labour to go ahead with further talks to up the ante beyond government’s position but we see its demand as too stuck-up and unlikely to see the light of day given the fact in the public space that the government is battling to keep this bleeding economy afloat.

Importantly, the Organised Labour and the FG should return to negotiation and get what is plausible given the parlous state of the economy which has become too tardy in the hands of the government.

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