The federal government has commenced moves to prevent a general strike ahead of the November 6 deadline set by organised labour following disagreement over a new minimum wage for workers.
Consequently, the federal government has fixed a meeting on Monday to come up with a new national minimum wage.
The minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, told State House correspondents yesterday that an“enlarged meeting of all key stakeholders in the government circle at both federal and states has been scheduled for Monday.”
While the unions are insisting on a N30,000 per month minimum wage, the federal government is proposing N24,000, while state governors are proposing N20,000, a marginal increase on the current minimum wage of N18,000, which many states have failed to implement.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that organised labour last Sunday announced that it would embark on indefinite strike from November 6.
In its response, the federal government had threatened to invoke a no-work, no-pay policy if labour went ahead with its planned strike action.
However, this strong arm tactics seems not to have deterred the workers’ union. Earlier this week, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) advised Nigerians to commence stocking food and other necessities of life as workers will ensure a total shutdown of the country, beginning from November 6, should the government fail to pass the N30,000 new minimum wage.
In a resolution reached at the end of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NLC held in Abuja on Wednesday, the workers’ union also said they were not perturbed by the no-work no-pay policy of the federal government, insisting that the right to strike was both a human right and a trade union right, and could not be abridged. The NLC said its strike would lead to a total shutdown of the country.
This unwavering stance may have signified to government that Labour is not ready to back down, hence the moves to seek ways of averting a confrontation with the workers’ union.
Labour minister, Dr Ngige, said a decision would be taken at the end of Monday’s meeting before a draft law would be transmitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on the new national minimum wage law.
“On Monday the economic team will meet and the governors are supposed to come so that the federal government will brief them on what is on the ground.
“And we will see what they will be able to put to us, because the government side is still three tiers, the federal, states and the local governments. The federal government is the leader.
“So, we are inviting them to come so that we will listen to them again, tell them what we are doing and what we intend to do, because they even have members on that committee.
“On Monday we will have a very useful discussion before the tripartite committee will come and submit its report,’’ Ngige said.
The minister faulted NLC’s position on the draft White Paper on Industrial Harmony, saying that the labour officials were misinformed about its content.
According to him, the white paper did not oppose the inclusion of non-elected officials to lead the labour unions in negotiations.
“I don’t think they read the reports of the committee that was set up. The one I participated in is the white paper drafting and the recommendation is there.
“So what the labour officials are talking of may be misinformation, because the particular aspect of it they are talking about, we rejected it – where they say non-elected members should not lead them in negotiation. My committee said `no’ because those people they call secretary–general or general secretary, some of them become automatic members of those unions.
“You don’t have to dispossess them of the right to lead. So government rejected it but they are shouting that government accepted it,’’ he said.