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Minimum wage: FG pleads for time as indefinite strike begins Monday

… Industrial Action Not a Solution, Labour Must Show Understanding – Minister

Fuel Scarcity and Blackouts Loom as NUPENG and PENGASSAN Vow to Join Strike

The Federal Government has urged Organized Labour to reconsider its plan for an indefinite strike starting Monday, June 3, 2024, in protest of the government’s refusal to increase the proposed minimum wage from N60,000. Emphasizing that the interests of the masses should be paramount, the government made a plea for reconsideration.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Idris Mohammed, described the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) as partners in “Project Nigeria.” He stressed that industrial action is not the solution to the ongoing minimum wage negotiations.

This appeal came after Organized Labour announced a nationwide strike over the Federal Government’s refusal to raise the proposed minimum wage from N60,000. NLC President Joe Ajaero stated that the indefinite strike would commence at midnight on Monday.

Ajaero expressed “grave concern and disappointment” over the government’s failure to pass a new National Minimum Wage Act and to reverse the hike in electricity tariffs to N65/kWh. He criticized the government for the lack of key officials at a Friday meeting, highlighting their apparent contempt for the demands of Nigerian workers.

“No governor was present and ministers were absent, except the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, who doubles as a conciliator. There was no one present on the side of the government with appropriate authority to commit them to any outcome. In essence, the government abandoned the meeting,” Ajaero said.

He noted that during the May Day celebration, Organized Labour issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government to conclude the minimum wage negotiation by the end of the month. Despite this, no significant progress has been made.

Ajaero emphasized that Nigerian workers deserve fair wages that reflect current economic realities and criticized the government’s neglect of its workforce. He called for decisive action from all affiliates, state councils, civil society organizations, and the general populace to support the strike.

Minister Idris Mohammed reiterated the government’s appeal, stating, “The government is pleading with Labour to reconsider its position. The FG has already made an offer of N60,000, and whatever the government does is in the interest of Nigerians. We won’t like to do something that will throw the country into another problem.”

He emphasized the need for common ground, highlighting the purpose of the tripartite committee set up to negotiate the wage. “A strike is not the solution to our problem. We are continuing our negotiation with them. The minister and other stakeholders are still talking to them and we believe that we will find common ground,” he stated.

NUPENG and PENGASSAN to Join Strike

Key unions in the power, oil, and gas sectors, including the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), have vowed to join the strike. This could result in fuel scarcity and nationwide blackouts.

NUPENG President William Akporeha confirmed the union’s full participation in the strike, while PENGASSAN’s National Public Relations Officer, Kingsley Udoidua, stated that they are obligated to join as an affiliate of TUC. The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) also confirmed their participation starting Monday.

Other Reactions

The National President of the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association, Ilitrus Ahmd, stated that the association had yet to receive a strike communication from TUC. The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) President, Adebiyi Adeyeye, said they were still in a crucial meeting and had not decided on joining the strike.

Licensed customs agents, represented by former National President Kayode Farinto, indicated they would not join the strike, stressing that the country’s economy cannot afford such disruption.

OPS Reaction

The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPS) expressed concern over the lack of consensus in the National Minimum Wage Committee. NECA Director General Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde noted that while businesses face numerous challenges, the government’s offer of N60,000 is reasonable given the current economic conditions.

The Federal Government defended its N60,000 proposal, citing a 100% increase from the existing minimum wage and numerous non-monetary incentives aimed at alleviating economic pressures on workers.

Minister Idris Mohammed concluded by appealing to Labour to continue negotiations and avoid the strike, stressing that it is not a solution to the problem.

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