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Minimum wage: Nationwide strike may begin next week

BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG & OKEY NDIRIBE
ABUJA — INDICATION emerged yesterday that the Federal Government has jettisoned the agreement reached with organised labour that all levels of workers, including the non-core civil servants would benefit from the N18,000 new minimum wage.

The government was also said to have threatened that it would not even  pay levels 1-6, if labour refused to accept this new position.

Leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, have rejected this new position from the government and feelers from the labour movement indicated that the suspended nationwide strike may resume next week.

Already, NLC and TUC  have called on workers to be ready to defend their interest and the collective interests of the Nigerian state and people.

Vanguard gathered that government’s new position was made known to labour leaders at a meeting of the technical committee charged to work out details for the implementation of the wage and payment of arrears in accordance with the July 19 agreement.

The Head of Service was said to have announced that the Federal Government would only implement the minimum wage for Grade levels 1-6 and that non-civil servants would not benefit.

According to leaders of NLC and TUC, “at the resumed meeting today, July 28, 2011, the Federal Government delegation refused to discuss or negotiate the three scenarios presented by the Joint Federal Government-Labour Technical Committee. Rather, the Head of Service announced that the Federal Government will only implement the minimum wage for Grade levels 1-6 and that non-civil servants will not benefit from the implementation of the new national minimum wage.

“For good measure, the government team threatened that unless Labour accepted this, even Grade Levels 1-6 in the civil service will not be paid the minimum wage.

“Of course, Labour refused to be intimidated. It is tragic that the Federal Government has unilaterally repudiated the agreement it freely entered with the Labour movement and has chosen to violate the country’s constitution, the National Minimum Wage Act and tear the collective agreement into shreds.

“The implication of this includes the fact that if the Federal Government decided not to be law-abiding, it would have lost all moral authority to compel others to obey the National Minimum Wage Act.”

Today is a sad day in the history of our beloved country because the government in power does not realize that where it tramples on the country’s constitution, violates the law and refuses to obey an agreement it entered into in writing, it is an invitation to anarchy. It is clear that the Federal Government deceived labour and the populace into believing that it will implement the Minimum Wage and that it is a fit and proper institution to enter into written agreement.

The NLC and TUC believe that people in Leadership should have integrity and be honourable; Nigerian workers have clearly demonstrated good faith in suspending the strike action, on the other hand, the Federal Government has demonstrated bad faith.”

“Despite the Federal Government’s actions, the NLC and TUC maintain that the July 31, 2011 date by which Labour and Government agree to reach an acceptable agreement on the implementation of the National Minimum Wage stands. The workers of our country have entered into an agreement with the Leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan and we shall hold the Government accountable for the implementation.

It added: “We call on all state Governments not to follow the bad example of the Federal Government; they should conclude negotiations with their workforce for the implementation of the National Minimum Wage across board as agreed with the Labour Movement. We also ask wise employers in the private sector to begin immediate salary increase negotiations with their employees and the unions.

The NLC and TUC call on the National Assembly that had played a vital role in getting the Federal Government to enter into negotiations with Labour and persuading workers to suspend the strike, to intervene by getting the Presidency to obey the agreement reached with Labour. We also call on Leaders of thought, religions leaders and other lovers of our dear country to prevail on the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Presidency not to ignite a wild industrial fire in the country.”


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