CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS,CPC, BACK LABOUR
Members of Civil Liberties Organisations (CLO) under the auspices of the Joint Action Forum, yesterday in Lagos, drummed up support for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on the struggle for the actualisation of N18,000 minimum wage.
They insisted that the three-day warning strike begining on Wednesday is sacrosanct and that no attempt by government would subvert the planned action to shut down the nation's economy.
Addressing journalists after a meeting between the coalition of labour and the civil liberties groups, under the aegis of Labour and Civil Liberties Coalition (LASCO), the President of the group, Mr Dipo Fasina, said preparations for the strike had reached its climax.
'There is no question of going back. It is a warning strike and it will go on as proposed,' he said.
Fasina who was a former president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recalled that the national minimum wage had suffered undue neglect from 2002 when N5,500 was instituted until 2009, before Labour came up with N52,200.
'Between May 13 to the end of 2009, Labour and JAF had moved around the country to sensitise the masses on deregulation, minimum wage and the electoral reform.
'It was also the outcome of those rallies that forced the government to inaugurate the Belgore's committee to negotiate and we don't understand why the recommendation of that committee would now be swept under the carpet,' he stated.
Fasina lambasted the politicians for appropriating millions of naira to themselves while throwing the kite that N18,000 minimum wage was not affordable.
He lamented that in the present economy, N18,000 was grossly inadequate for any worker who faces the challenge of paying for his children's education, house rent, medical, transport and other social services.
'The N18,000 cannot even be sufficient to cater for a family of five. It is no doubt that the N18,000 in Nigeria today is a starvation wage. But despite that, government is backing out,' he said.
The labour leaders said investigations by his group had revealed that some governors were behind the failure of the executive to send the bill to the National Assembly for amendment.
'Those governors should be told that the workers will not go down below N18,000 as negotiation had already been concluded and the decision of the Belgore Committee is binding on all the tripartite members; government, private sector and Labour,' he added.
Comrade Joe Ajaero, General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) who is also a member of the NLC strike committee, warned that if government failed to pass the bill within the stipulated time by Labour, the strike would go on for the first three days, as proposed.
Meanwhile, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has also thrown its' weight behind the workers' demand.
The party urged government to imbibe the culture of keeping to promises and agreement, saying, the reluctance of the government in implementing the agreement in a reflection and extension of the ruling party's penchant for failure to keep electoral promises.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Dennis Aghanyan,in a statement in Abuja said
'Government should honour an agreement it reached with organised labour', adding it was 'irresponsible for any government to reach an understanding with any union or individual only to start giving excuses when it is time to honour it'.
He further stated that it was disheartening that the Nigerian Government cannot pay a minimum wage of at least N18, 000.00 as agreed on when the reality on ground clearly indicates that even that amount is not sufficient to run a home in a month
' The Federal Government should simulate the system by injecting life into all sectors of the economy like roads, health sector, education and other social sevices. By so doing, the economy can come back to life and the little naira in the pockets of the Nigerian masses, can have value.