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Labour warns Fed Govt: Pay new minimum wage or expect strikes in 2017

By The Citizen
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Organised Labour weekend warned that it would not guarantee industrial peace in the new year should government fail to put in place the process of reviewing and approving a new national minimum wage without further delay.

Speaking at the 10th Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, NUFBITE, in Lagos, General Secretary of the Ayuba Wabba-led Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson warned that organised labour would not guarantee industrial peace over the matter in 2017, if  government continued to ignore workers' demand for upward review of the existing N18, 000 minimum wage.

He lamented that organised labour had severally written to remind the Federal Government to no avail on the urgent need to constitute a tripartite committee, comprising government, private sector employers and labour, to review the minimum wage which had expired.

Dr. Ozon-Eson contended that workers had exercised tremendous patience in the wake of the hardship occasioned by ongoing recession which completely eroded workers purchasing power, insisting that workers could not endure and be patient for ever.

He said: 'In the interest of industrial peace in 2017, government should immediately constitute a tripartite committee of social partners to review the current minimum wage which has been in existence since 2011 and has since expired.

''We have been patient and have been appealing to government severally on the need to review the minimum wage. Government has not yielded. We want to let government know that our patience is running out.

'Besides the fact that the current minimum wage has expired, it has lost its real value and has depreciated beyond expectation as a result of the economic recession and current exchange rate.

''We have written several letters to the government on the need to constitute the tripartite committee. So far, the government has refused to do so. The earlier the government does so, the better for everybody in the new year.'

Earlier, President of NUFBITE, Mr. Lateef Oyelakan, called on the Federal Government to urgently intervene in the challenges facing the beverage and confectionaries sector before it became too late.

He said:  'The economic recession is really biting us very hard as we continue to lose our members to closures, retrenchments, and casualisation as employers devise more stringent means of surviving especially since they are finding it extremely difficult to source foreign exchange for operations.

'We are appealing to the government to intervene urgently before the situation gets at of hand. We appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari efforts at revamping the economy.

''We are excited with the government employment agenda. We will like to use this medium to urge Mr. President through the Honourable Minister, to place total ban on importation of beverage and confectionaries. We have enough capacity to supply local needs and the West African sub-region.

'In the same vein, there should be outright ban on foreign spirit into the country. It is unacceptable for Shoprite and others to import spirit and wine from South African and Europe into Nigeria while the local distillers are on the verge of closing down.

'' The sad thing is that these are products we can produce locally but these importations are killing local industries and reducing their abilities to create jobs. Similarly, we call on government to do more to bring the textile industry back to life.

''The government should make it compulsory for the armed forces, paramilitary agencies, public schools and government officials to use local fabrics for all public functions. –