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Labour halts planned strike

Our Reporters

Leaders of the nation’s labour movement, midnight, called off  the three day warning strike they earlier declared to protest the reluctance of the Federal and state governments to pay the new minimum wage.

The strike was called off in Abuja after marathon meetings between  labour leaders on one hand and  delegations of the Federal Government  and the  Governors Forum on the other hand. At the end of the six hour meeting between the leaders of the Nigeria Labour congress, NLC and  Trade Union Congress (TUC) one side and the Governors Forum on the other, the labour leaders headed for the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for another round of negotiation which lasted for over three hours.   

 Governor Adams Oshiomhole of  Edo  State played the role of a mediator in breaking the deadlock between the Federal Government  and Governors Forum on one hand and the nation’s  labour movement.  After  the marathon meeting  between labour leaders and the Governors Forum, the state chief executives, apparently mandated Governor Oshiomhole, who was the immediate past President of the NLC  to accompany the labour leaders foranother  meeting with the Federal Government delegation  led by the Secretary to the Government of the  Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.

Although the meeting held behind closed doors, it was gathered that the Minister of Labour Chief Chukwuemeka Wogu was also present with the Director General of the National Wages and Salaries Commission, Chief Richard Egbule.

 Earlier, at the meeting held on Monday,  Emeka Wogu had in his remarks,  indicated that the Federal Government’s position had hardly shifted from what it was last week.   He repeated the justification the Government’s delegation had earlier given for its stance on the dispute over the National Minimum Wage. 

 He maintained that what was budgeted for in the current financial year was fund  for payment of  public servants in categories one to six.  He pointed out that the major challenge for government is funding the payment of the new minimum wage across board.

His position was reiterated  by the SGF who appealed to the labour leaders  to call off  the nationwide strike.

Senator Anyim further urged  the labour leaders to accept the implementation of the new minimum wage for workers on levels 1 to 6  in the public service since this was what was budgeted for in the 2011 Appropriation Act of the National Assembly.

He pledged that the Federal Government had agreed to implement the salary review for workers on levels 7 to 17 by next  January.

He further explained that the Federal Government’s earlier  interpretation of the Minimum Wage Act was strict in the sense that it was fashioned to ensure that no Nigerian worker should receive less that N18,000 as his monthly wage, whereas, the labour movement’s interpretation was that the law should apply across board.

 Below is a report on the state of preparedness for the strike, ( across the country)  before it was called off 

Twenty four hours to the commencement of strike , panic and apprehension reigned supreme in the polity, yesterday. Across the 36 states of the federation, the citizenry took measures that would alleviate expected harsh impact of the industrial action.

While some made panic buying of food, edible and household items including fuel and kerosene, others invaded banks, to withdraw funds. This was as some state governments, private organisations and others tried dissuading their staff from joining the strike.

The strike action is expected to commence effectively 12 midnight should the government and labour fail to reach an agreement.

Panic buying of petrol hit Port-Harcourt
In Port Harcourt and other parts of Rivers State, hundreds of motorists embarked on panic buying of petrol.
Also, some private businesses placed notices in their premises tasking members of staff not to go on strike, failing which they might be thrown out of their employments. However, some traders in Mile 1 Market (Rumuwoji Market).

Ibadan: Some workers begin strike a day earlier
As a measure of their resolve to press home their minimum wage demands, a section of the workers under the Joint Negotiation Council, began an indefinite strike in Ibadan yesterday, a day earlier than today’s kick-off.

Oyo State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Alhaji Bashir Olanrewaju, said workers in the state were fully prepared for the strike that would commence today.

No going back on strike in Ebonyi
The Ebonyi State council of the NLC and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, yesterday gave a standing order mandating the entire workers of the state to proceed on a three-day warning strike from today.

The unions noted that the instruction was in consonance with the decision reached by the national secretariats of both NLC and TUC, consequent upon the non-implementation of the new minimum wage by the federal, state and local government s in the country.

Parliamentary workers ordered to stay at home
Ahead of the strike, parliamentary workers nationwide have been ordered to stay at home by the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) National Assembly Chapter.

MINIMUM WAGE TALKS—L-R: National President Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwaheed Umar; Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim and Chairman Nigeria Governors Forum Gov, Rótimi Amaechi during the Federal Government delegation meeting with Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress (TUC) over new Minimum Wage in Abuja,Monday. Photo : Gbemiga Olamikan.

In a letter by Publicity Secretary, Comrade Elijah Ter Vanger, PASAN asked “all comrades to participate fully in the three-day warning strike, a notice of which has been sent to management.”

PASAN also urged the speedy implementation of the Consolidated Legislative Salary Structure (CONCESS) for parliamentary workers agreed to with the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) in May.

“While we reassure all comrades of our total commitment to the urgent and full implementation of CONCESS, we will continue to impress on the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) and leadership of the National Assembly to keep faith with the agreement of May 24, 2011 signed by all the stakeholders to sustain the industrial harmony in our work place” the letter read.

Lagos directs workers to shun strike
For being the first state to begin the implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage, Lagos State Government has directed its workers not to partake in the three-day warning strike.

In a circular issued by the state government and signed by the Head of Service, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe, the government said the strike was unnecessary since the state government had already complied with the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2011. It urged its workers to use the period to rededicate themselves and contribute meaningfully to the actualization of the mission and vision of the Governor Babatunde Fashola-led administration.

Workers battle-ready in Owerri
The leadership of the NLC, Imo State Council, said yesterday that it had sensitised all its affiliated unions to fully respect the directive from the NLC National Headquarters on the nationwide warning strike.

Already, directives have been passed to all public servants in the state to stay away from their offices until otherwise directed by labour.
Scores of customers were spotted in all the banking halls visited by Vanguard yesterday afternoon as they made spirited attempts to withdraw money from their accounts, for the upkeep of their families.

Panic buying in Yenagoa
Residents of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital were yesterday locked in panic buying ahead of the three warning strike.
Already the Comrade Ebiuwou Koku-Obiyai-led state chapter of the NLC, yesterday directed its members to stay away from their duty posts in deference to its national secretariat’s directive.

NLC, TUC sensitise workers in Ekiti
NLC and TUC leaders in Ekiti State have directed their members to stay off their duty posts today. At separate press briefings in Ado Ekiti yesterday,  NLC and TUC chairmen, Comrades Ayodeji Aluko and Olaiya Kolawole, said they had no option than to abide with the directive of their national headquarters.

They  declared that the state government had no option than to pay the N18,000 minimum wage to the workers in their respective states, adding that Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi was part of the governors that met and  signed the agreement on minimum wage.

Edo workers poised for action
Relatedly, the leadership of the two unions issued the same directive in Benin.
In a joint statement by Comrade Emma Ademokun (NLC Chairman) and Joe Aligbe (TUC), the unions directed all workers in the state to commence the warning strike today. They raised a 10-man team led by Comrade B.S Kadiri, Vice-Chairman (NLC) to monitor the industrial action.
They however noted that the strike action was without prejudice to the Edo State Government, which they said, “in its wisdom approved the implementation of the minimum wage to Edo State workers to which we are grateful.”

Meanwhile, the State chapters of the NLC, TUC and the Joint Negotiating Council have absolve themselves from the alleged collaboration with the State government to exclude some sections of the State civil service from the newly approved minimum wage bill.

Governor Adams Oshiomhole had on July 11, 2011, signed an agreement with the trade union leaders the implementation of N18, 000. 34 minimum wages for the State civil servants with effect from June 2011.

He pointed out that Nigerian Union of Teachers and the Judiciary Workers Council were not captured in the new minimum wage agreement and however, said that they were free to send their leaders to negotiate with the government.

Against this backdrop, teachers in the state gave a seven-day ultimatum to the State government to include them or face an indefinite strike action.


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