Minimum wage: No going back, strike begins Monday - NLC - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Minimum wage: No going back, strike begins Monday - NLC

After about four hours of a marathon meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly, the Executive arm  of government and the Organised Labour, the Nigeria Labour Congress,  NLC, on Sunday ended in deadlock.

The meeting was conveyed at the instance of the NASS leadership with regard to the  proposed industrial action by the labour unions over the yet to be approved minimum wage for workers.

Speaking after the failed meeting to force the Organised  Labour to call off the proposed strike, the President, Trade Union Congress,  TUC,  Festus Osifo said they not have the powers to suspend the strike against the backdrop  that there are organs that they must report to before a final decision could be taken. 

Osifo said, " There was an appeal from the Senate President to call off the strike, on our part, we said we cannot sit here and just call off the strike because we need to report,  we will take all their pleas yo our organs, for now, we don't  have the powers to call off the strike."

Earlier the President of the Senate,  Senator  Godswill  said  that the National Assembly was on the part of the people and the government and what affects the people also affects the lawmakers, just as he said  that  Nigeria government was ready to  provide a living wage for its workers, hence it constituted a tripartite committee to negotiate a new minimum wage.

Senator Akpabio  told the members of the labour union that the leadership of the National Assembly had to cancel an important engagement to convene the meeting to explore ways to reach a consensus between the government and organized labour.

The meeting which took place in  room 301, White House of the Senate, was presided over by the President of the Senate,  Senator Godswill Akpabio, with the Speaker, House of Representatives,Tajudeen Abbas in attendance. 

Speaking yesterday in Abuja during a marathon meeting with members of the Executive Arm, the National Assembly and the Organised Labour, Akpabio said that they as lawmakers are not taking the job of the Executive or that of Labour,  saying that it will be difficult to negotiate while on strike and that the meeting was called to hear the position of both parties on the minimum wage issue.

According to him, there was the  need to be mindful of
collateral damage emage on eventual wage to be reached and  to avoid a situation where workers will be  retrenched on account of employers' inability to pay the eventual new wage.

According to Senator Akpabio,  “I do know that Mr President had set up a very serious committee to negotiate with Labour.  The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of Service who are here with us have been deeply involved in the negotiations. 

“So the leadership of both Chambers decided to invite everybody here so we can listen to all parties. We are not taking over the work of the executive. We are not taking over the work of the NLC and TUC. But we just said we should hear from you. 

“It is very difficult to negotiate for peace in an atmosphere of crisis. If you are on strike it means you are no longer negotiating. And the Nigerian people are desirous in having a closure to the issue of the minimum wage. 

“And the government too is very eager to meet the yearnings of the people to a reasonable extent based on the current economic realities. Hence there was need for us to call all parties to the table and to hear from you.

“As the People’s Parliament we are also on the side of the people. Above all we are also workers. So what affects you affects us and what affects us also affects you. I welcome you that you honored this invitation of the 10th National Assembly at very short notice,” he said. 

On his part, speaker of the House of Representatives Tajudeen Abass collaborated Akpabio, said that NASS was on the side of the people and government.

Abbas said, " We are on both sides, we are on the side of government and the people, we are the peoples parliament, what ever affect the people affects us too am sure some of you will recall during the independent anniversary lecture that the only way this government can eliminate corruption at the long run is to embrace minimum wage let us  also be mindful that the corruption of several decades cannot be repaired in one day it will be a gradual process, we have to start somewhere and agree on what we can do to reach that level where every Nigeria worker can beat his chest and say am earning enough to put food on the table,enough to settle my bills.

"My own take home for all of us here is to say thank you to the organized labour for accepting to come ,to give Nigerians hope that all hope is not lost, we can continue to dialogue on this important subject matter . I want to thank the SGF and Ministers who took out time to be here, The federal government and organized labour are open to agreement that will be lasting to both parties."

Also present were principal officers of the Senate and House of Representatives and Chairmen of various Committees from both Chambers.

Senators present were the Deputy President of the Senate,  Senator Barau Jibrin; Senate  Leader,  Opeyemi Bamidele; Senate Minority Leader Senator Abba Moro,  Senator  Saliu Mustapha, Leader, House of Representatives, Julius Ihonvbere, and the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Labour, Employment and Productivity; Senator Diket Plang and Rep. Gboyega Adefarati, respectively; as well as other Senators and Honourable Members.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation,  SGF, Senator  George Akume led the Ministers for the meeting  while the President of NLC,  Joe Ajaero, President of TUC, Festus Osifo and members of their national executive are also present.

Present at the meeting were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Minister of Finance, Dr Wale Edun, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu, Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Nkiruka Onyejiocha, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan. 

In his remarks, Ajaero who noted that what they are fighting for is living wages for workers and not a starvation wage, said that  the workers are  the brothers and sisters of the lawmakers and the ministers, stressing  that they need to work for Nigerians.

On his part, his  TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo who noted that  the current situation in the country was difficult for Nigerians especially in the last one year, said that it  has also resulted in the difficulty in negotiating a new minimum wage for workers.

The meeting which  entered into an Executive session for them to brainstorm at 5.54pm, ended at 8.55pm.

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