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FG moves to avert workers’ strike

FG moves to avert workers’ strike

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James Ojo, Abuja and Bimbo Oyesola

In a bid to avert looming industrial action by the Organised Labour, the Federal Government has summoned the leadership of the unions to a meeting tomorrow (Friday).

The meeting is at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.

The statement read in part: “Towards nipping in the bud threat of national industrial action by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) over the transmission of the New National Minimum Wage to the National Assembly.

“The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment Sen. Chris Ngige is scheduled to hold a meeting with the executives of the Organised Labour Union…”

Although the three labour centres acknowledged receipt of the invitation, yesterday, there are indications that the parley might not produce any meaningful result, particularly with labour sticky to its position.

Tomorrow’s parley with Labour unions holds at the Conference Room of the ministry at 10:30am, according to the Director of Press, Mr. Samuel Olo-wookere.

While the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said they might honour the invitation, the United Labour Congress (ULC) has said it would not attend.

“Yes, we received a letter from the Ministry of Labour inviting us to a meeting on Friday, but for us, we don’t know what those meetings are for because what needs to be done now is not meetings.

“But in our tradition, (if) you invite us to a meeting, we will come to listen to you. But we have passed the stage of meetings upon meetings. What needs to be done is for the bill to be sent to the National Assembly, but we will attend the meeting,” General Secretary of NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson said.

But President of ULC, Joe Ajaero said labour has no reason to meet with the minister or Federal Government anymore since President Buhari had made it known in his budget speech that he wanted to set up a technical committee.

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“How can Ngige sent us such an invitation, we’ve made it known to him that we will not be attending the meeting.

“Ngige can meet with his staff and aides. Labour had made it clear to the government that no other submission would be accepted except what was recommended by the tripartite committee.”

Ajaero said the meeting was diversionary and labour would not be distracted.

“The December 31 deadline given to the government to send the bill to the National Assembly has passed; our next step is to meet and harmonise our next move any moment from now,” he said.

The president of TUC, Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Ozo-Eson, who said they might attend, however, said the meeting would not change the labour position on the proposed nationwide protest and strike.

According to Kaigama, TUC would only attend the meeting as a matter of formality.

“Of course when they invite us, we will attend. We do not believe in any techni- cal committee, we’ve gone past that. During the tripar- tite committee sittings, we set up technical committee.

If the technical committee they want to set up is on minimum wage, we’ve gone beyond that.”

He maintained that organised labour only suspended its strike on the wage in November last year and would no longer give any notice on its proposed strike.

“The three centres are going to meet any moment from now, we will not give any date, but (we would) just commence the suspended strike,” he said.

Similarly, Ozo-Eson said NLC have never refused to attend meetings, but warned that it would have nothing to do with the scheduled nationwide protest next week Tuesday.

“We’ve stated it in our communiqué that January 8 would be a day set aside for nationwide protest and we are going ahead.

“We’ve gone beyond the issue of meeting. As we have said, what we want government to do is to send the bill to the National Assembly,” he said.

Following a December 31, 2018 ultimatum to the president to act after the report of the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage was presented to him by the chairperson, Ms Ama Pepple, Labour fixed January 8 to commence a nation-wide industrial action.

The decision was taken after failure by President Buhari to transmit a bill prescribing N30,000 as minimum wage for workers.

The workers unions also enjoined their members to brace up for a long strike until the demand for a minimum wage of N30,000 is approved.

The NLC in its New year message had equally advised Nigerian workers to begin mobilisation for a prolonged strike.

NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, said government’s dilly-dallying on the issue has strained its relationship with Labour and left it with no option other than a major national strike.

NLC in December had declared January 8 as a day of national protest to drive home its demand for a new minimum wage.

The protest, according to the NLC president, is to express anger and total dis- satisfaction over the delay by the Federal Government in transmitting, enacting and implementing the new national minimum wage of N30,000.

Wabba said the strike has become the last option for the workers, adding that labour craves the understanding and support of all Nigerians and businesses.

The tripartite committee which comprised representatives of the federal and state government, the organised private sector and the organised labour, had reportedly reached a compromise on N30, 000. Labour had initially demanded N66,500, Federal Government N24, 500 while state governors proposed N22,500.

Governors under the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) have declared that states were not in financial position to pay.

According to chairman of NGF, Gov. Abdulaziz Yari, no attempt to impose the sum would strangle the states, the NGF said.

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