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Labour insists on strike despite court ruling


President of Congress, Ayuba Wabba,. PHOTO: YOUTUBE

• Demands Submission Of Minimum Wage Report To Buhari
• NLC, TUC Meet Govt Tomorrow

Despite the National Industrial Court (NIC) ruling in Abuja, yesterday, barring it from doing so until the determination of the substantive matter before it, the organised Labour has insisted on embarking on strike action over the non-implementation of N30, 000 as the new National Minimum Wage.

The National Industrial Court (NIC), yesterday, barred the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) from embarking on any industrial action until the substantive suit is determined. Hearing of the case, which was instituted by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has been fixed for Thursday, November 8 in Abuja.

The organised labour had threatened to embark on an industrial action slated to commence on Tuesday, November 6, if the Federal Government fails to put in place necessary motion towards sending a Bill to the National Assembly to legislate for a new minimum wage for the country.

But President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN): “We are not aware of any court ruling and we have not been served any notice.“We have just concluded our joint organ meetings of the Central Working Committees of the Labour Centres of the NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the United Labour Congress (ULC) in Lagos.

“The meeting is the final preparation for a full engagement with the government on the new national minimum wage and we have taken our decision to go on the strike.“Our decision is to go ahead with the nationwide strike, unless the government does the needful.”

Also, TUC General Secretary, Musa Lawal, said the centre was not aware of any court ruling concerning the planned strike by organised labour, insisting: “We are not aware, because we have not been served any court order. We have taken our decision and we are going to stand by that.”

Similarly, TUC Chairman in Kwara State, Kola Olumoh, said yesterday’s NIC ruling, cannot stop the proposed nationwide strike.He told NAN in llorin that the order was a ploy to cause confusion, which was already belated, adding that the national body of the organised Labour unions would appeal the ruling, while the proposed nationwide strike would continue.

Olumoh said Labour was magnanimous enough to stand at N30, 000 minimum wage for workers, which he noted could not be compared with the jumbo pay of political office holders.“We are fully prepared for the proposed strike in Kwara, if the Federal Government fails to accept the N30, 000 as minimum wage,” Olumoh said, just as he advised workers in the state to fully prepare for the strike and cooperate with the labour unions in the struggle.

He alleged that most state governments in the country spent about 40 per cent of their monthly allocations for salary and wondered why they were rejecting N30, 000 minimum wage. The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), had, in a communiqué after its meeting, insisted that they can only pay N22, 500 as the new national minimum wage.

The organised labour has reiterated its position that any figure below N30, 000 would not be acceptable to them and called on its members to mobilise in preparation for the commencement of the strike on November 6, unless necessary steps were taken to adopt the recommendation of the Tripartite Committee.

Meanwhile, the Labour has demanded a speedy submission of the national minimum wage report to President Muhammadu Buhari for onward transmission to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.They resolved that if government fails to respond and address the issues of making sure the report is signed by the chairman of the tripartite negotiating council committee, Ama Pepple, and submitted to Buhari for speedy enactment into law, the organised labour would commence the national strike by midnight of Tuesday, November 6.

At a joint Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting by the leadership of the labour unions yesterday in Lagos, comprising the NLC, headed by Ayuba Wabba; his TUC counterpart, Bobboi Kaigama, and the United Labour Congress’ (ULC), Joe Ajaero, they said unless government accepts and commences the process of perfecting the payment of N30, 000 as the negotiated and compromise new wage before the strike date, the action would hold.

Addressing the meeting, Wabba said: “The decision is taken by all trade unions in Nigeria. The issue of minimum wage is at the heart of every worker, they have suffered monumentally, in terms of purchasing power from the value of N18, 000 to the value that we have now. Therefore, this issue is very central.

“The demand is very straightforward. We are open to dialogue, but dialogue must have an end. If we must have dialogue for one year and there is no end to that, certainly there is a deceit and we are not ready for that. We will not actually participate for a process that will not have an end.

“This is where we are now and it is unambiguous that a worker who creates wealth needs to be taken care of.”Wabba, who recalled that the minimum wage was due for review since 2016, said it was due to the fact that they are committed to a process of collective bargaining that made workers and unions to be patient.

“We dialogued and also negotiated in line with Convention 87 of the ILO up to a process of taking us more than one year, and at the conclusion of the meeting when workers are expecting to benefit from the minimum wage that all these issues are coming up.”Ajaero said no party could reverse the organised labour’s decision, adding that it is in the interest of government to implement the new wage in the interest of Nigerians, as it is only through a minimum wage payment that the economy could improve.

In lieu of this, a communiqué issued at the end of CWC meeting directed all affiliate unions, state councils, civil society allies, informal sector and other concerned citizens to commence immediate mobilisation of their members for a total shutdown of the country on November 6.They also advised Nigerians to start stocking food and other necessities of life, as workers would ensure a total shutdown of the country.

Delivering ruling in an ex-parte application, Justice Kado Sanusi restrained the NLC and the TUC from engaging in the proposed strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit filed on behalf of the Federal Government by the AGF.Justice Sanusi also restrained the NLC, TUC and the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), listed as the first to the third defendants, from taking steps capable of destroying the subject of the dispute.

The Judge said he was granting the ex-parte application argued by the Solicitor-General of the Federation (SGF), Dayo Apata, because of the likely devastating effect of the strike on the country, the economy and the Nigerian people.Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige has disclosed that conciliatory meeting with the tripartite committee would take place tomorrow Sunday, November 4 in Abuja with a view to arriving at a figure that would be acceptable to all the parties.

Ngige assured Nigerians that government would do everything in its power to avert the strike.He, however, said he was surprised that the NGF failed to raise its figure to N24, 000, while declining to comment on why the Federal Government reneged on the N30, 000 initially agreed by the tripartite committee before it adjourned.

In a related development, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has expressed its utter disappointment in the statement issued by the representative of the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) on the outcome of the works of the tripartite committee. NACCIMA’s representative, Muheeba Dankaka, had, through a letter to the Chairperson of the committee, Ms. Ama Pepple, dissociated the association from the position of the organised private sector.

Director General of NECA, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo, said: “Dankaka was indeed absent from the sitting of the committee on September 4 and 5, this year, when conclusions were reached. “How then could she have been part of the discussions that led to the agreement?”

He affirmed that the other Organised Private Sector (OPS) representatives had consulted among themselves and were in touch with their primary constituencies through the process of negotiation, which culminated in the agreement of N30, 000.00 as the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Oshinowo noted that such a step smirks, not only of mischief, but also of utter ignorance on many fundamental issues and processes of the national minimum wage fixing mechanism, adding: “At no time did NACCIMA propose a contrary figure to that of the entire OPS (NECA, MAN and NASME) all through the works of the committee.”

He expressed regret that NACCIMA, through its representative, had unwittingly allowed itself to undermine the solidarity of the OPS at a time like this, when integrity, candour and credibility would go a long way in resolving the burning issue of the national minimum wage conundrum.

Oshinowo added that NECA, traditionally, has been the leader of the OPS on advocacy issues relating to labour and social issues, a role it has creditably discharged in the over 60 years of its existence, affirming that the other arms of the OPS- NECA, MAN and NASME- are on the same page and undivided on the matter.

The NECA chief submitted that the wage tripartite committee had indeed concluded its works on September 5, this year, on the note that it would only reconvene on a date to be given by the Presidency to submit its report to President Muhammadu Buhari. He added that the committee at plenary, had concluded on the note of recommending N30, 000 as the new minimum wage, while noting the Federal Government’s position of N24, 000.

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