Industrial action: We’ve mobilised for full compliance –Labour

The Organised Labour said it has mobilized for full implementation of its indefinite nationwide strike over electricity tariff increase and new minimum wage for workers. 

The NLC spokesperson, Mr. Benson Upah, told Daily Sun that a strike strategy meeting was held over the weekend to ensure that all affiliates and states were fully involved in the industrial action.

“Mobilization is very high,” he said. On whether key sectors would be affected, the spokesperson replied: “Fully.”

The Medical & Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN),  Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and others have already issued strike notices to their branches and members. 

After several unsuccessful negotiations with the Tripartite Committee on the National New Minimum Wage, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), on Friday declared a nationwide strike over the refusal of the government to reverse its recent hike on electricity tariff and failure to reach an agreement on the new minimum wage.

The NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said despite issuing ultimatums and staging protests, the government has failed to address the pressing issues at hand, including the hike in electricity tariffs and the fair determination of a minimum wage that is reflective of the current economic conditions.

A National Executive Council (NEC) member of ASUU said the various branches would join the state council of NLC at the start of the indefinite strike.

“ASUU as an affiliate of NLC will participate in the indefinite strike. Our members have been informed. No lecturer will go to class as from tomorrow until when the NLC called off the strike”, he stated.

One of the branch chairmen of SSANU told Daily Sun that the national body has directed its members to join the national strike.

ASUP President, Shammah Kpanja told Daily Sun that his members have been mobilized for the indefinite strike and would not attend to students until the industrial action is suspended.

The Federal Government, however, described the planned nationwide strike as ineffectual, premature and illegal.

In a letter addressed to the presidents of the NLC and TUC, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi said the unions’ decision to embark on a strike came when the Federal Government and other stakeholders involved in the Tripartite Committee on the determination of a new national minimum wage had not declared an end to negotiations.

“You are aware that the Federal and State Governments are not the only employers to be bound by a new national minimum wage.

“Hence, it is vital to balance the interest and capacity of all employers of labour in the country, including the organized private sector, in order to determine a minimum wage for the generality of the working population.”

Fagbemi added that the organized labour unions failed to issue a mandatory 15-day strike notice in compliance with the Trade Disputes Act 2004 and the Trade Unions Act.

He said the planned strike was at odds with the order from the national industrial court in 2023, which restrained the unions from embarking on industrial actions.

“I would like to draw your attention to Sections 41(1) and 42(1) of the Trade Disputes Act 2004 tax amended, which requires both the NLC and the TUC to issue mandatory strike notices of a minimum of 15 days.

“It is pertinent to observe that at no time did either the NLC or the TUC declare a trade dispute with their employers or issue any strike notice as required by law for such strike action to be legitimate and lawful. It is not in doubt that the fundamental importance of the 15-day notice is underscored by the fact that sections 41 & 42 (1)(b) criminalize non-compliance with this requirement for a valid declaration of strike action.

“Consequent upon the foregoing, the call to industrial action is premature, ineffectual and illegal. The proposed strike action is also at variance with the order of the National Industrial Court and ongoing mediatory settlement efforts over issues connected with the subject matter of the order.”

At press time, the National Assembly was in a meeting with the organised labour in a last move to avert the strike.

The meeting held at the Senate wing had in attendance the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, other principal officers, the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), George Akume;  Minister of Finance, Wale Edun; Minister of State for Labour, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha and leaders of organised labour, amongst others in attendance.

Speaking before the meeting went into an executive session, Akpabio said the meeting was intended to find a resolution to issues surrounding a new minimum wage for the country.

He said there was a need to tread cautiously on the minimum wage to avoid creating new problems for workers, especially those in the private sector.

“I do know that Mr. President has set up a very serious committee to negotiate with labour. Secretary to Government, I am sure you have been deeply involved in the negotiation. The Head of Service, you have always been deeply informed.

“We are not taking over the work of the executive. We are not taking over the work of the TUC nor are we taking over the work of the NLC. 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 Nigerian people are desirous of having a  closure to the issue of minimum wage.  The government is very eager to meet the yearning of the people at least to a reasonable extent based on the economic reality, hence there is need for us to call all parties to the table and to hear from you as the people’s parliament. We are also on the side of the people. We are on your side the NLC and the TUC. And we are also on your side, the government and the executive. So we are on the side of all Nigerians. And above all, we are also workers. We are also labourers. What affects you affects us will affect you.

“We must also be mindful of collateral damage. I don’t want us, in the course of trying to arrive at minimum wage, we end up with serious issue of unemployment because as soon as we arrive at a minimum wage, we expect the private sector to also adhere and if we  are unable to do so, the next thing will  be retrenchment of workers. So, we will look at the issue. As we walk on the tight rope, we must do the balancing act.”

Similarly, the Speaker, Abbas, stated that the parliament was affected by the plight of the people.

He noted that one way of tackling corruption in the country was to pay workers a living wage. Regardless, the speaker stated that stakeholders should also be mindful that the damage of several decades cannot be addressed overnight.

“We have to start somewhere and then agree to a plan of what we can do to reach that level when every Nigerian worker can beat his chest and say I am earning enough to put food on the table. Enough to take care of my basics.

“My own is to say thank you to organised labour for even accepting to come to the National Assembly to give Nigerians and the government the hope that all is not lost; that we can continue interacting; that we can continue to dialogue on this very important subject matter, “ he stated.

On his part, Ajaero said the demand of organised labour for a new minimum wage was for the benefit of all Nigerians.

“What we are demanding is for all Nigerians. Your brothers. Your sisters. For everybody. Your constituents. That is why we must all reason together to find a solution to it. It is not for any of the leadership here, it has to do with all Nigerians and the way forward for this. We are quite committed to finding a way forward, finding a living wage, finding a survival wage and not starvation wage for Nigerians.”

Osifo added that the last one year has been difficult for workers. He explained that what organised labour was asking for is a wage that would enable workers, to at least, afford the basic necessities of life.

“A labourer deserves the rightful wage. And that’s the conversation that we have been having for some time. We all will agree that as a country, it is very difficult and excruciating for Nigerian workers.

“We all know very well that the value of the naira has been eroded to a very large extent. Things have been difficult. In the last one year, that difficulty has exacerbated that is why the minimum wage conversation is a big talk. And it’s a bit difficult because when you are negotiating under a difficult environment, it is always very difficult.

“For us, the last four months have been tough and Nigerians are waiting for us to give them a wage that at least could assist them  in paying transportation to work, could feed them, could house. These are basic necessities of life, not even a wage to buy a car or wage to build a house, but to meet the basic necessities of life.”

CAN: It’ll cripple economy

Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Imo State chapter, has appealed to the NLC to rescind its decision on the industrial action.

State chairman of the NLC, Rev Eches Divine Eches, in a statement in Owerri expressed fears that the planned down-tool may worsen the present economic situation in the country. He appealed to his statesman, saying: “Joe Ajaero, the NLC president, is from my state. Can Mr. Ajaero honestly say that  Imo State or any other state government in the South East can pay a minimum wage of N494,000 without collapsing?

“Even the Organised Private Sector cannot pay that amount and has publicly aligned with the government to say let’s start somewhere and grow steadily.

“Does Joe Ajaero want to collapse the Nigerian economy? If not, why is he making impossible demands? Even his friends that we know that owned business cannot and have never paid any of their staff N400,000.

“Does Mr. Ajaero want the Federal Government to push for a new minimum wage law that is unenforceable by all tiers of government and the organised private sector?

Eches, who is also the chairman of TEKAN/ECW Fellowship (Bloc) South East, added: “He wants the minimum wage to increase by 1,500 percent. Has Nigeria’s revenue expanded by 1,500 percent? Does he want us to suffer Venezuelan and Zimbabwean style of  hyperinflation?

“What will a national strike achieve if not national strife? Mr. Ajaero has called more strikes than the last four presidents of the NLC combined.

“Something is wrong somewhere. If we are fighting for workers, let us fight with love for the country and mature reasoning. Any wrong fight could sabotage the economy and make things worse for the workers and nation as a whole.

“I, therefore, wish to appeal to the NLC leadership and the Federal Government to return to dialogue with an open and honest mind to avert any damage to our already fragile economy,” Eches pleaded.

Anglican bishop slams labour

The Archbishop of Anglican Communion, Kaduna Diocese, Rev. Timothy Yahaya, said majority of Nigerians have lost trust in the leadership of the NLC and the TUC.

Responding to questions from newsmen on the sideline of the 23rd Synod and 70th anniversary of Kaduna Diocese, at the St. Christopher Anglican Church, Kaduna, with the theme: “The Lord is my shepherd,” Bishop Yahaya said the leadership of the organised labour must be sincere in what they do, querying their failure to act when fuel subsidy was removed which has affected negatively all aspects of living standard in the country.

“NLC needs to be sincere, they did nothing when fuel subsidy was removed, NLC and TUC should tackle workers’ problem holistically because only in Nigeria do people pay for darkness and not complain. My call to Nigerians is to depend on God for intervention and pray for our leaders to always do the right thing.”

Bishop Yahaya also lamented that Nigeria is so blessed with varieties of mineral resources, such as gold and diamond, yet the majority of the citizens are hungry because of leadership deficiencies.

He lamented that prices of garri and bread that used to be food for the ordinary masses has become a luxury, as it is above the reach of the poor masses. “Even a federal director that is not a thief cannot live a meaningful life with the minimum wage.”

He called on the Federal Government to urgently address food security, insecurity and consider declaring a state of emergency on security.

“Cost of living is no longer easy in Nigeria. Garri is now a luxury. Minimum wage for two months cannot buy a bag of maize or rice. Bread is now a luxury because no minimum wage worker can afford a loaf of bread daily.

“Removal of fuel subsidy has added nothing to us as a country. Hyperinflation has defied human understanding, taxation everywhere, our leaders must sit down and find holistic solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting the country.”

On the theme of the Synod, he said, as a country, we must depend on God, and the leadership of the country must also go the right way to get the right results and tell each other the truth.

Bishop Yahaya further lamented the rate at which Nigerian troops are being wasted by insurgents and bandits, wondering if the troops were ill-equipped.

“No meaningful investor will bring foreign investment to Nigeria because of the unsafe environment,” he said.



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