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Minimum wage: Labour may declare strike if . . . *TUC CWC empowers NAC to take action

The Nigeria labour movement in Nigeria may consider outright strike action if government does not reconvene the minimum wage negotiation committee.

The President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba who disclosed this in Abuja said government has within 14 days ultimatum handed down penultimate week to consider reconvening the tripartite talks.

This comes as the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has empowered its National Administrative Council (NAC) to take all necessary actions to ensure the negotiations are concluded.

A communiqué signed by the Secretary General of TUC, Musa Lawal in Lagos, said the decision was taken at an emergency meeting of the CWC in Lagos on Tuesday, 24th September 2018.

Wabba said the labour movement is yet to receive any notification from the Federal Government of any decision it has taken concerning the suspended talk.

For Wabba, the steps taken by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige to unilaterally suspend the negotiation is an abuse of power as well as a demonstration of executive tyranny.

Wabba exonerated state governments from any complicity saying the data in its possession indicates that most state governments support a new minimum wage floor.

While dismissing the allegation that the issuance of 14 days ultimatum is an attempt to blackmail government and action that is contrary to labour laws of Nigeria and some convention that Dr Ngige did not identify, Wabba explained that both convention 98 and 131 that relate directly to the issue of minimum wage have not been violated by labour in the negotiation processes.

He added that adjourning a meeting ‘sine die’ on a day that the reports of the committees were slated for discussion by the tripartite groups is indeed a violation of the principle of tripartism.

The NLC helmsman added: “This negates an agreement that had been reached. The committee had a workplan within which to conclude its assignment on or before 21st August 2018. We had to shift the date because it fell on a public holiday after the tripartite agreed.”

He further added that 12 states quoting figures amongst the 21 states that made submission to the committee captured the acceptance all the state governments. Wabba maintained that each state government would be made to face the wrath of their workers if they are convinced they are on the right path by rejecting a new wage floor for their workers.

Wabba disclosed that the committee that worked on the figure has reached agreement on average, main and medium before the meeting was suddenly adjourned ‘sine die’ by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.

The NLC Chief stated that labour movement would not be deterred by the antics of the Federal Government saying, labour would not hesitate to declare a full industrial action any time it feels sufficiently convinced that that is the last resort to bring government back to the negotiation table.

Indeed, it is expected that both the NLC and TUC would be meetings its civil society allies to take the next step in the struggle. He also hinted that labour movement and its allies have not received any communication from the Federal Government and yet to see any concrete action taken to reconvene the meeting.

He also revealed that figures were already on the table for discussion before the intervention of Dr Ngige. He said that for a minimum wage that has been due for revision in 2016, workers’ patience has been exhausted.

He added: “Workers were told that the economy was in recession and they had to be patient. I don’t think anyone is sincere to insinuate that labour is blackmailing government. The Minister should not forget his ordeals in the hands of workers at the 2017 May Day. The Vice President had to come to the 2018 May Day to give an inspiring speech.”

Wabba stressed that the argument of further engaging state governors on figure is not needed and simply a delay tactic.

“The Chairman of the Governor Forum had said that the Forum would not present any figure to the committee and that what is likely to be presented would be their audited accounts which would give concise information on their financial status. So, the committee is on longer expecting any state government to make submission on the matter.”

He also posited that the much touted inability of some states to pay the present N18, 000 minimum wage is not the ability to pay, but misplacement of priority.

He said: “In the last three months, the revenues have so much increased from around N400 billion to around N1trillion. Yet we see some state governments that are still unable to pay salary. If states like Yobe, Katsina and Jigawa can pay salaries and gratuity, why can’t most states pay?”

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