WORKERS DOWN TOOLS TODAY, EVEN AS LABOUR REACHES TRUCE WITH FG
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), backed by Civil Society Groups, this morning made good their threat by embarking on a warning strike aimed at forcing the Federal Government to speed up the Bill on the new minimum wage of N18,000 as recommended by the Alfa Belgore Committee.
According to the labour leaders, the strike has to go on as planned despite reaching a truce with the Federal Government's negotiating team last night. Daily Sun gathered from the meeting between Labour and government, held in Abuja that, Labour could not take a decision to end the strike on the spot.
The Labour leaders said, they needed to consult with their National Executive Council (NEC). However, there were indications that the decision to end the strike might be reached during a meeting of Labour and Civil Society Coalitions (LASCO) slated for 3p.m. today. Prior to the yesterday's meeting, Labour and the affiliate groups had stuck to their guns. Speaking through the Joint Secretary, LASCO, Mr. Abiodun Aremu, the coalition noted: 'If government is really sincere and know what the implication of what the strike can do, we are sure those in power would have taken to the way of wisdom by going ahead to send the Bill to the National Assembly. Afterall, we are not asking for what the country cannot offer,' he said.
The Labour activist said the issue revolves around respecting the sanctity of the agreement which all the tripartite, labour, private sector and government teams in the committee agreed on and was therefore binding on all. Aremu explained that the strike would commence in Lagos by 8a.m with a protest rally from the NLC Secretariat in Yaba, after which the workers would march through the Ikorodu Road, down to Ikeja and finally walk back to the NLC Secretariat to access the success.
Feeler from the states indicated that the state chapters are leaving no stone unturned to ensure, the exercise turned out a huge success. From Imo, Ogun, Kaduna, Rivers and Taraba state, the directive to workers to grind social and economic activities to a halt across the country was unanimous.
Addressing workers yesterday at the state secretariat along Owerri-Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, the Imo State Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Romanus Nduka said the action was in line with the directive of the NLC leadership to embark on a three-day warning beginning from today.
Nduka stated that workers in the country have suffered untold hardships because of the insensitivity of the leaders to their plight. He therefore, directed all employees at both public and private sectors to comply with the directive, stressing that several proposals by the labour to the government had felt on deaf ears.
He advised the state government to be prepared to pay the N18,000 proposed minimum wage as workers in the state would not receive anything less.
While giving reasons why Ogun State workers joined its counterparts across the country, the state NLC, yesterday alleged that several monthly deductions/pension on workers' salaries remained unsettled by the state government.
In a Communique jointly signed by the State Chairman, and the Secretary, Clement Adeniyi, and Dotun Dasaolu at the end of the State Executive Council (SEC), and made available yesterday, the NLC frowned at the state government's insensitivity towards remittance of workers deductions/contributory pensions scheme from workers salary inspite of the 7-day ultimatum given by the Joint Negotiating Council.
The Labour body threatened that it could no longer guarantee industrial harmony in the state if the meeting between the state government and the Negotiation Council scheduled for yesterday failed to address the issue.
The NLC therefore, urged workers in the state to join others across the country during the 3-day warning strike from today saying it was for the benefit of the workforce in the state.
The situation is not different in Tarraba State where the Chairman of the state NLC Mr Jonah J. Pataps and the secretary (NHY) kwanchi called on workers in both the public and private sectors to stay away from their duty posts He explained that already the national body of the union had given two-month ultimatum, followed by three weeks and 14 days without any response from government.
He expressed fears over the long silence after the submission of the Justice Alfa Belgore led committee on minimum wage pointing out that it was an attempt on the part of government to frustrate workers which according to him they will not take it kindly.
The NLC boss observed that since the submission of the report, several bills had been sent to the National Assembly, yet the one on minimum wage was excluded, arguing that if minimum wage was all about legal processes as observed by government, workers are also aware that 'justice delayed is justice denied.'
The NLC boss reminded workers that strike was the only weapon they have for pressing for their legitimate rights.
He, however, explained that the N18,000 new national minimum wage is different from the struggle for relativity increase by the State Joint Public Service Negotiating Council which is as a result of increase to Federal employees with effect from July, 2010.
Katap further appealed to the workers to be law abiding during the strike ,directing that all business transaction to be suspended until further notice.
In another desperate move aimed at shutting down the country's aviation sector, aviation unions in the country, also joined the nationwide strike.The Secretary General of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Frank Aiyede, said all aviation workers have been adequately mobilized to join the strike which begins today
In a letter dated November 9, 2010 and made available to Journalists, all workers in the sector were advised to stay at home during the duration of the strike.
The letter, signed by Frank Aiyede also said the strike is to fight the insensitivity and non charllance of the Federal Government to the plight of the average Nigerian worker.
Meanwhile the Bayelsa State Governor, Timpre Sylva has urged the NLC, the TUC and the workers in general not to always demand for salary increase as it is not in the interest of the nation.
Fielding questions from aviation correspondents on Tuesday in Lagos after the departure of President Goodluck Jonathan, Sylva said increase in wages does not necessarily translate to increase in productivity, adding that fat salaries would make the work environment not to be competitive.