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Anxiety builds up as labour’s nationwide strike looms

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By Chidi Nkwopara, Owerri

Palpable anxiety has gripped Nigerians as the threat issued by the organized labour to shut down the country economy over the new national minimum wage, gets closer.

Nigerian Labour Congress
Vanguard sampled the views of some people in Imo State yesterday, and a majority of the respondents expressed fears that “the downtrodden will particularly, bear the brunt of the shutdown if the Federal Government fails to agree with labour on the way forward”.
For the United States of America based attorney, Mr Stanley Ozuzu, appealed to the Federal Government to “exhibit some serious concern for the current economic woes of Nigerian citizens and do everything possible to avert the looming industrial action by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC”.
Ozuzu opined that he expects labour leaders and the Federal Government to “do all they can and should do, to avert the impending strike, in the interest of all”.
According to Mr Ozuzu, “although labour the world over, sees industrial actions as a last resort in achieving their demands, as in the instant case, only the hapless, helpless poor in society are worse hit, during the strike.”
A member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, who goes by the name, Onye Army, pleaded with warring sides to sheath their swords and embrace dialogue. “I urge the parties to embrace dialogue, instead of allowing the strike scheduled to begin on Wednesday, to commence.
This will save our suffering masses from further economic assault. They have had more than their fair share of suffering”, Onye Army said.
An Electrical/Electronics Engineering student of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO, who spoke on strict grounds of anonymity, said that students will be at the receiving end of the strike if it is allowed to begin. “Many of our parents and guardians are not finding it funny to see us through school. Most students pass through ravaging hunger on a daily basis. Any strike will sadly elongate our stay in school and this is not what any of us is praying for”, the student said.
Chief Eddy Asiegbu thought differently. His words: “Comrade Ayuba Waba’s NLC leadership is a toothless bulldog. If it were in the days of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, NLC would have put his administration under pressure until their demands were met.
If they eventually embark on an indefinite strike, the danger of sending us back to recession days is imminent, moreso, the efforts of the newly appointed economic team will be in futility. I am sure it’s a weak threat.”
While a federal civil servant that identified herself simply as Chika, gave total support for the planned shutdown, she urged the government to stop playing politics with workers salaries, “as N30,000 cannot be compared with the huge monies they spend for the feeding of their dogs, every week”.
Mr Martin Ori, a journalist, pleaded with the NLC leadership, against going ahead with the strike. “The NLC should still go into the negotiation with the Federal Government. Since it has agreed to pay the minimum wage but said it has no funds, the NLC should look for financial experts to advice government on how to make the payment of minimum wage possible”, Ori said.
A senior citizen, Mazi Nnamdi Nwigwe, labour leaders “should demand the immediate reduction by 75 per cent, the criminal allowances paid to legislators in the country”, stressing that shutting down the country can never be the solution to the problem.
Much as Mr. Damian Duruiheoma shared in the plight of Nigerian workers, he however reasoned that it was not enough reason to shut down the country.
“We can feel the pain of Nigerian workers, but that should not be enough reason for them to ground the country again. They had the opportunity to press home this demand before the general elections but they didn’t. Now, they have to enter into fresh negotiation with the Federal Government, to come out with the modalities on how to pay the minimum wage”, Duruiheoma said.
Reacting also, the State Chairman of Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Pastor Richard Eze, said that “if government dies not bulge, labour would not guarantee industrial harmony any time from Wednesday, October 16, 2019”.
The labour leader wondered why government should refuse to accept the 29 percent adjustments for Grade Levels 7-14 and 24 percent for levels 15-17, “when political office holders go home every month with millions of Naira, as remuneration”.
Reacting to the invitation extended to labour by the Labour Minister, Dr Chris Ngige, the Imo NULGE boss said it was a mere ploy to frustrate the strike.
Vanguard recalls that government and labour have so far, failed to reach an agreement on the relativity and consequential adjustments for the new minimum wage

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