Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nigerian Labour Organizations Seek Pact on Wages, Insists on National Strike

Labour seeks pact on new wage, insists on strike

Monday, 18 July 2011 00:00 From From John-Abba Ogbodo and Collins Olayinka, Abuja
Nigerian Guardian

THE pledges of state governments on their readiness to begin the implementation of the new minimum wage have failed to dissuade Labour from embarking on a three-day strike beginning from Wednesday.

The only avenue opened to government at all levels to prevent the strike remains signing an implementation agreement with Labour.

But the President of the Senate, David Mark, has appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to shelve the strike.

Addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday, the Chairman of the national Labour strike coordinating committee, Promise Adewusi, however, declared that the resolution of the 36 state governments was a welcome development.

Adewusi stated that the Labour movement was already expecting a similar line of action from the Federal Government.

His words: “For us, if tomorrow, the Federal Government also announces that it will comply with the minimum wage law rather than attempt to subvert it by trying to scheme out most federal workers, it will not be surprising because the Nigerian people expect it to obey the country’s laws. Therefore, the governors’ pronouncements that they will obey the minimum wage law has changed nothing on the ground and has advanced nothing in reality. And if the Federal Government follows suit, it will not change workers’ resolve to go on the three-day warning strike from Wednesday, July 20, 2011.”

He added that the expected agreement must include that the payment of the new wage will be across board at local, state and federal levels; that it must take effect from March 23, 2011; the payment of the arrears within three months; and that no worker will be retrenched in the course of the implementation .

While reacting to a meeting planned by the governors with labour tomorrow, Adewusi stressed the desire of labour to have such a meeting earlier than tomorrow saying, “ While labour welcomes dialogue at any time, we think it would be better if issues are sorted out earlier.”

He expressed worry about the expression of the inability of most of the state governors to pay, which is radically different from what most of them said in the processes that led to the eventual arrival at N18,000 as the new wage.

“It is amazing to us that a state government like Abia which last year proposed a N46,700 national minimum wage would delay in paying the N18,000 minimum wage. It is equally shocking that states like Kwara, Imo and Kebbi which proposed N30,000 minimum wage and the FCT and Anambra State government which offered in 2010 to pay N25,000 minimum wage will show reluctance when asked to pay N18,000. On the average, the state governments proposed a new national minimum wage of 21,800 in 2010, so why would they be reluctant to pay N18,000?” he asked.

He revealed that most government agencies submitted figures that were above the N18,000 and then wondered why the furore over the wage.

He added: “For instance, the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) proposed N34,200 monthly, the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) came to the conclusion that the new minimum wage should be N41,000, the National Productivity Centre proposed N22,000, the Central Bank N20,216.01 and the National Bureau of Statistics proposed N18,036.73. On the average, the Federal Government through its various agencies proposed N22,500 as the new minimum wage in the country. It is therefore baffling that the same Federal Government is bent on creating an industrial crisis over the payment N18,000 minimum wage.”

Adewusi said the labour movement was being compelled to call a general strike in order to force government to implement a law it willingly sponsored in the National Assembly for passage. He added that government’s action may now serve as a formidable disincentive to workers in the private sector who may be wanting to negotiate a higher pay with their employers.

“To the working people, it is painful that we are being pushed into a general strike which is avoidable in the first place. This is one of the rare cases in human history when the citizenry would rise up to compel government to obey the law it has itself made. Also, the action of government which has served as a disincentive to private sector employers to negotiate higher wages with their employees will also result in the strike running through the private sector,” he said.

While expressing the appreciation of the labour movement to the National Assembly for their mediatory roles, Adewusi subsequently asked religious leaders, members of the National Assembly and students to continue their roles until the new wage is implemented without prejudice to workers’ cadres.

Mark made the appeal at the weekend in Lagos where he presented a cheque of N0.5million to the family of the late Lagos State Television (LTV) journalist assigned to cover the Senate in Abuja, Mr. Ganiyu Bakare, who died on June 15 during a brief illness.

Mark, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan said: “Suspending the planned strike would give more room for a meaningful dialogue between labour and government, dialogue to resolve the planned industrial action could lead to the amicable settlement of the issue in the interest of all and sundry.”

Governors of the 36 states of the federation rose from a meeting in Abuja at the weekend with a resolve to implement the new minimum wage but states were asked to negotiate with their workers on the commencement period.

While handing over the cheque to the first son of the deceased, Lekan Bakare, the Senate President described the late Bakare as “a trustworthy, straight forward, committed and dedicated journalist. I always took pride in relating with him as my personal friend. His demise is painful but we cannot question the wish of Almighty God.”

Mark therefore used the opportunity to advise journalists to avail themselves of the Media Insurance Scheme, stating that no organisation could meet all the needs of any worker.

Lekan who received the cheque on behalf of the family, thanked both the Senate President and management of the LTV 8, for their concern for the family, assuring that “the money will be used judiciously to cushion the immediate pain of the irreparable loss of our breadwinner.”

The Permanent Secretary, LTV 8, Mr. Lekan Ogunbanwo who described the deceased as “a worker, who could be trusted and be entrusted with a sensitive assignment,” also thanked the Senate President for his kind gesture just as he prayed God to give the family of the deceased the fortitude to bear the loss.

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