MINIMUM WAGE STRIKE: DON'T BEG US, LABOUR TELLS FG
A scheduled crucial meeting with the Federal Government today, on the contentious new national minimum wage notwithstanding, organized labour yesterday talked tough saying no appeal would stop the nationwide strike begining on Wednesday.
The workers' unions said only the transmission of an enabling Bill to the National Assembly on the implementation of the new wage will stop the industrial action.
Government is to engage labour by 2:00pm on how to stave off the planned industrial action by the workers over alleged non-commitment of government to the implementation of the N18,000 new national minimum wage at a meeting expected to be attended also by the employers body, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).
Meanwhile, as the leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) go into the meeting with the Vice-President, Nnamadi Sambo- led Technical Committee set up by the National Council of State to address the issues, a flurry of support for labour came from a spectrum of stakeholders, such as the Labour Party and the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), which described as justified, the workers' position.
Labour had planned a three-day warning nationwide strike for Wednesday, November 10 to 12, after which it would order a full blown one if government fails to respond to its demand.
Indication that today's meeting may not achieve the expected purpose, emerged when the NLC Strike Committee Chairman, Promise Adewusi told Daily Sun there was no need for the meeting and that labour would only honour the invitation out of respect for the office of the Vice-President.
According to him, the situation had passed the stage of discussion, because there was nothing to discuss.
Said he: 'we 're not supposed to be at the meeting, but because of the respect we have for the office and person of Mr. Vice-President, we'll be there. There is really nothing to discuss. And we also know that there is still time for government to take action on the matter. Alhaji Shehu Shagari did it in 1981, a minimum wage bill was passed within 24 hours. Chief Obasanjo did it. Within three days, a bill was prepared and passed. So there is nothing new in this if government is serious.
'All these meetings are mechanisms for buying time. We have passed the stage, on Belgore recommendation we stand,' he stated. National Chairman of the Labour Party, Dan Nwayanwu said there is no time for government's usual rhetoric and endless negotiations because the working people of Nigeria had suffered for too long and government just has to perform.
While identifying with the course of the workers, the party boss described as callous the inability of government to pay workers their dues.'Since independence, the working people of Nigeria have been creating wealth for the nation which the leaders have been squandering. 'All the developments in the FCT and other state capitals were made possible by the workers through hardwork and commitment, all they have been paid back with was massive looting at the expense of those who generated the wealth.
'Labour Party sides with the workers and will match side by side with them to Aso Rock and other places they are protesting to so as to make the implementation possible.' Chief Nwayanwu therefore called on President Goodluck Jonathan, who himself is a worker not to waste time in ensuring the bill is presented to the National Assembly for quick, prompt and accelerated debates.
He stated: 'It is a matter for regret that since independence, successive governments had never on its own, implemented wage raise without a strike. One would have thought that President Jonathan would make a difference. The time has come for government to put on its thinking cap and put in place strategies whereby salaries will be automatically increased.
'The take home pay of workers can hardly take them to the bus stop. This is one of the reasons Nigerian workers should see Labour Party as their only partner in progress in this struggle for a better remuneration.
The party chairman advised all well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on government to do the right thing on time because the cost of the strike on the economy would be far greater than what it would take to implement the new wage.
The CNPP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu asked the government to respect the agreement as the only way to avert an industrial strike in the midst of national recession.
'CNPP is unaware of the new national minimum wage President Jonathan is referring to, apart from the national minimum wage Act of 2000, which pegged minimum wage at N5,500. It is therefore regrettable that either President Jonathan or the National Council of States are being misled by the salary increase to federal workers.
'It is our considered view that the Tripartite Committee Report has provided a critical legal framework for a new national minimum wage, accordingly it is incumbent on the Federal, State and Local governments and the private sector to adopt; as they were duly represented throughout the one year - from 14th July, 2009 to 1st July 2010 – sittings of the committee headed by former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore.
' We're at a loss which further due consultation President Jonathan is referring to, instead of implementing the tripartite agreement. We consequently challenge him to forthwith, submit the accompanying bill in the Tripartite Committee Report as an Executive bill to the National Assembly to give legal teeth to the new minimum wage.
'CNPP cannot separate the monumental corruption going on in our public institutions and our poor rating in the Global Competitive Index and Transparency International from abysmal poor remuneration of Nigerian workers.
'Is it not paradoxical that a president who is on jumbo salary, with uncountable perks of office is wavering on granting workers who go to the same market a less than living wage. Moreso when the workers are aware that the governors, parliamentarians are also on jumbo pay.'