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MINIMUM WAGE: IF FG RENEGES, WE WILL GIVE THEM REAL TROUBLE — ESELE

By NBF News
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President General of Trade Union Congress, Peter Esele has stated that the present appeal to the National Assembly to pass law on the increase in minimum wage will be the last as, they are agitating for independence of the three arms of government.

He lashed out at those alleging that the labour unions are being sponsored to disrupt President Jonathan's administration. He said such talebearers are just looking for a reason to undermine their agitation.

Is the 18,000 minimum wages commensurate with the present economic situation in the country?

Also, do you know that these politicians are saying that they do not want to pay the N18, 000? This is just the beginning, because the law that will go to the National Assembly, which was prepared by the committee, is that we will no longer go to the National Assembly for any minimum wage. Once that is passed, we will sit down to agree, and that will be done every five years. How can you say that a family of six should live on $120 per month? By the time you break it down, it means that each of the family members should live on a dollar a day. We are talking about health, education and transportation in a society where nothing is provided, and they say that they do not want to pay N18,000.

This one is just a warning strike; we have not done anything yet. They started running around begging after we locked down the government for three hours. By the time they refuse to pay this N18,000, that is when they will see trouble. If everybody will go down, we will all go down.

Looking at the seeming sincerity of the Federal Government, don't you think NLC should have listened to their request for more time?

You see, the reason we are listening is that I am a member of the committee that has been negotiating with the government. It must become a law. We are proposing an amendment to the former Act; this is going to be the last time we will go to the National Assembly. Since everybody has been begging us all over the place, we said fine, let's us listen. So, what NLC and TUC are saying is, let us listen to them and see what comes out of the 25th and after that, we will know what the next line of action will be. Trade Union movement is that we must continue to talk; we will never shut down the doors of dialogue.

What is the implication of this minimum wage on the private enterprise like SMEs?

SMEs were part of the negotiation. This is the first time we have got the SMEs to join us. They took an advert in the newspaper supporting our position. We did an empirical study; we did not just wake up and arrive at that. Abia State government submission was 46,000, which is good. On the average, we have looked at it, that is why we are very passionate about the N18,000. It is no retreat, no surrender.

Is it true this request has a relationship with the huge pension package for the former leaders?

This minimum wage has been there, it has nothing to do with approval of pension for some people. Our leaders who subverted the constitution did not show good example, and it shows how low our value is. And you are justifying that for someone after plotting a coup and holding the country to ransom; you are going to pay him for life. What example are you setting for your youths? You are telling them that it is lawful and right to do what they did. When you have militancy, you start asking of the origin

I t has been alleged that this sudden agitation is a ploy by the opposition to destabilize Goodluck Jonathan's administration?

They said opposition is using us that is what I heard. The opposition cannot use us. I have nothing against Jonathan or his administration. It is known that when they refused to hand over to him when the late Yar'Adua was sick; we were the people who marched on the streets. We have no problem with Goodluck or his government. You and I know that when it comes to negotiation, you look for when you are at the strongest end. This is the best time, that is why we brought it up. Which opposition will come and use us because if the opposition comes to power, we will still bring up the matter.

Names of some contenders for the 2011 ticket were mentioned as sponsors.

I have heard it and I am telling you that it is a lie. It is a lie.

Was money given to motivate the labour action?
Listen, we submitted a report in July, government did nothing. When we react, you turn around and say that we have been bribed. If government had done something since July, we won't be doing what we are doing now. They are only looking for an excuse to undermine the action. I am telling you categorically that nothing like that happened. I have never met with any opposition leader and I do not think that any of my men has done that.