By Victor Ahiuma-Young
As the 14-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government by organised labour over a new national minimum wage ends Wednesday, Labour leaders have declared that only the government can stop the planned industrial action by doing the needful.
Specifically, leaders of organised labour said the government knows their demand; which is to name a figure and reconvene the meeting of the tripartite committee on the minimum wage to conclude the process of announcing a new national minimum wage.
Failure to do that, leaders of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, insisted that a nationwide industrial unrest is inevitable.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard, President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the National Executive Council, NEC, of NLC, had given NLC leaders a mandate which is to, alongside other leaders of organised labour to declare appropriate industrial action or any action it deems necessary, should government fail to meet their demands.
According to him, the directive of NEC of September 19, 2018 on the issue of the protracted new national minimum wage is clear and we are working with the mandate. For the record, on the the minimum wage, the NEC resolves as follows “The NEC received report of activities from the NAC, the Central Working Committee, CWC, the 36 State Councils and FCT on the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Negotiation Team – Trade Union side. The NEC commended the organized labour team for representing workers’ and pensioners’ interest effectively; The NEC expressed serious concern at the unilateral adjournment of negotiation sine die by the Federal Government, on the day that the tripartite committee was expected to complete its assignment. The NEC noted that this is against the principle and practice of collective bargaining provided in ILO Convention 131, Conventions 87 and 98 which the Federal Government has domesticated.
“NEC-in-Session applauded and approved the proactive steps taken by the organized Labour by issuing the statutory 14-day notice to preserve the sanctity of the collective bargaining process and the demand for the tripartite committee to reconvene and finalize its report in line with the principle of collective bargaining as outlined in ILO Convention 98. NEC resolved that all affiliate industrial unions, 36 state councils of Congress and the FCT and the Joint Action Front communicate the decisions of NEC to their various organs immediately. NEC also resolved that at the expiration of the 14 days ultimatum if the demand of organized labour is not met, the NAC and the leadership of organized labour has its full mandate to declare appropriate industrial action or any action it deems necessary.”
On its part, President of ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said like I have said before, we are united on this. NLC, TUC, and ULC, we are united on this issue of minimum wage. We have given an ultimatum, we have our demands and the ultimatum is a widow for the government to address our demands. If the government wants peace, it knows what to do. That is, name its figure and reconvene the meeting of the tripartite committee on the minimum wage to conclude the process of arriving at a generally acceptable wage by the social partners and all will be well. Without that, we have our mandate.”
Earlier, Ajaero had among others, told Sunday Vanguard while responding to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige’s response to the 14-day ultimatum by organised labour that “Labour has a figure but the government has no figure three years after. This is unaceeptable even after increasing the pump price of fuel that tripled inflation rate in the country on the basis of which a committee was set up to look at the issue of palliatives and the need to review workers’ salary upwards. Between then and now, the government is still dilly dallying. He is playing with the destiny of Nigerian workers.
“You know what happens at the end of an ultimatum. As we speak, various organs of the labour centres are meeting. Let me tell you, it may get to a time we will not honour the invitation from him for meetings until there is a balance of power of industrial relation. At the expiration, definitely we will meet again and marshal out our next line of action.”