24 hours to Strike: Labour talks tough, FG begs

Less than 24 hours after to start of the nationwide strike over a new national minimum wage and hike in electricity tariff, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has directed its state councils across the country to ensure total compliance.

•Says action won’t end until Minimum Wage agreement is signed

•Oil, electricity, maritime, financial, and other critical sector unions warm up

Less than 24 hours after to start of the nationwide strike over a new national minimum wage and hike in electricity tariff, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has directed its state councils across the country to ensure total compliance.

This came to light on a day unions in the oil, electricity, financial and other critical sectors pledged total support for the indefinite strike declared by NLC and its counterpart, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC.

Recall that the two labour centres, last Friday, announced an indefinite nationwide strike from tomorrow (Monday) over the government’s failure to agree on a new national minimum wage and reverse the recent hike in electricity tariff.

NLC and TUC leaders had, on Workers Day, celebrations given the Federal Government a May 31 deadline to conclude the negotiations on a new national minimum wage or risk nationwide industrial unrest.

The tripartite committee on a new National Minimum Wage set up by the government failed to make a decision on a new national minimum wage after about four meetings.

Labour leaders had walked out of the meetings three times after rejecting government and the Organised Private Sector, OPS, offers.

Incidentally, the last walkout on Friday happened on a day the deadline labour gave the government to conclude a new minimum wage lapsed, as the old minimum wage of N30,000 that was signed into law by former President Muhammad Buhari on April 18, 2019, expired on April 18, 2024.

Earlier on May 31, organised labour negotiators had walked out of the meeting for a third time, over the refusal by government to make a new offer beyond the N60,000 it put forward.

It was gathered that the negotiations hit a brick wall when the government and the organised private sector, OPS, remained adamant on the N60,000 offers they made earlier on Tuesday.

Recall that organised labour’s negotiating team had, Tuesday May 28, for the second time in two weeks, walked out of the committee meeting after the federal government increased its offer to N60,000 from the N57,000 it offered on May 22.

Labour’s negotiating team had, on May 15, walked out of the tripartite committee meeting after the government offered N48,000 and Organised Private Sector, OPS, offered N54,000, against the N615,000.

Directive to state councils

NLC, in a circular by its General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, to all its state councils, among others, said “This is to inform you of the commencement of the proposed indefinite nationwide strike beginning on Monday, June 3, 2024, as a result of the failure of the Nigerian state to agree on a new national minimum wage and subsequently pass it into law before the end of this month as they were notified; Reverse the hike in electricity tariff without consulting the stakeholders as required by the law to N225/kwh back to N66/kwh and Stop the apartheid categorisation of Nigerian electricity consumers into Bands.

“We kindly request all State Councils to mobilise all their affiliates and members across the state to stay away from work commencing Midnight, this Sunday to ensure a comprehensive closure of all workplaces.

“Do please, set up joint Action Committees with the Trade Union Congress in your state for effective coordination of the strike action. We would be glad to receive continuous updates of your effort. Do remember that the success of this action is dependent on our collective determination and resolve.”

No agreement, no end

Also speaking on whether organised labour will call off action should government call and offer a higher amount, President of NLC, Joe Ajaero said: “Government can only call for a continuation of the negotiation not by an award. They can’t say come, we are giving you this. We have to sit down and negotiate from where we are today. It is like calling us tomorrow to say let us continue with the negotiation. Now we will negotiate from there, but not to call us to say we are giving you N10 or N20, that will be out of the concept of negotiation.

“Calling us does not mean agreement. Until we sign an agreement on what is mutually agreeable by the parties, action will be on. But action is not such that we will not equally negotiate, because the two parties are now going to negotiate under duress. We are under pressure. That is the meaning of this. So the earlier we resolve it, the better for us.”

On mobilisation at the state level, Ajaero said: “When you hear the National Executive Council, NEC, of any labour centre, it comprises all the states and all the unions. That is the situation, and that is where we got this mandate.

“You equally witnessed it on May Day when all workers gathered nationwide, and this pronouncement was made. In fact, it was a public one. it is not like there were two or three people. It was mass based.

“As of today, there is no minimum wage for Nigerian workers. Technically, the minimum wage had expired on the 18th of April. As of now, we are operating without any law backing up the minimum wage. They were talking about a 100 per cent increase. That is what they have offered, but the 100 per cent increase amounts to one loaf of bread per day for 30 days .They are not looking at the quality or the value of what they are offering to us.
“Those are the issues that we are looking at and all of us must address it because it is tight. There is nobody that can move on with this arrangement being done with inflation and devaluation. Everything is open.

“If we take even the N600,000 we are proposing today, by next week, it will not make any impact. So, we have to look at them holistically and see what we can do to save the working class in Nigeria. We are not doing a strike that will be one month without a bite. I’m not sure where you have labour centres in a country embarking on a strike for one month and you don’t listen to them.

“What we will be praying for is for the people who are suffering so much because they are some of our people. That was why we were reluctant. That was why we were virtually telling them to let us find a solution.
“When we were in the meeting today (yesterday) we told them we have to be here and allow you to go and get a mandate. We are ready to sleep here to allow you to get a mandate to come back to this meeting. They said no, we should just allow them whenever they get a mandate. That it is difficult to see even the President and that they do not have access and all that. Then they did not come out with anything. We found ourselves in a helpless situation. So, that is where we are now. Everybody should be patient with us.”

Critical sector workers

Meanwhile, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, NUBIFIE, and other critical sector unions have already written to their members to ensure total compliance.

NUPENG

In a circular to all levels of the union leaders, NUPENG’s General Secretary, Afolabi Olawale, said: “We bring you fraternal greetings from the National Secretariat of our great union.

“This is to notify all our members and branches in all oil and gas installations, operations and services including distribution and marketing of petroleum products, that our great union is fully committed to ensuring total compliance with the directive of the Nigerian Labour Congress issued on Friday, May 31, 2024, for an indefinite nationwide strike commencing from Monday, June 3, 2024. “As a union, we are deeply concerned and disturbed with the insensitive and irresponsive attitude of the federal government to the very critical issue of negotiating a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers in view of the various social economic policies of this administration that have impoverished the working people of this country.

“Leaders of our great union at all levels, from the units, Zones and Branches, should immediately put all processes in place to ensure total compliance with this directive Our solidarity remains constant because the union makes us strong. The struggle continues. And we shall overcome.”

NUBIFIE

Similarly, NUBIFIE, in a directive by its President and General Secretary, Abakpa Sheikh, said: “This is to inform all NUBIFIE organs that NLC has directed all its affiliates to commence an indefinite strike beginning from Monday, June 3, 2024. The import of the strike is to compel the federal government to agree on a new national minimum wage and subsequently pass it into law before the end of this month as they were notified, reverse the hike in electricity tariff without consulting the stakeholders as required by the law to N225/kwh back to N66/kwh and Stop the apartheid categorization of Nigerian electricity into Bands.

“In total compliance with the directives from the NLC, you are hereby directed to mobilize for effective participation in your respective Zonal Councils/Domestic Committee and ensure total compliance.

Electricity workers

Also, a notice by the President and Acting General of NUEE, Adebiyi Adeyeye and Dominic Igwebike, said “With reference to the circular from NLC dated May 31, 2024, we are to mobilise and embark on an indefinite nationwide strike starting Monday, June 3, 2024, by 0.00hour due to the following failure of the Nigerian government to implement and sign into law the new national minimum wage on or before 31st May 2024, Non-reversal of the electricity tariff which was hiked from N65/kwh to N225/kwh without consulting the stakeholders as required by the law and Apartheid categorization of Nigeria electricity consumers into bands.

“Given the above, all National, State, and Chapter executives are requested to start the mobilization of our members in total compliance with this directive to ensure the Government does the right thing as stated above.
“You are encouraged to work with the leadership of State Executive Councils (SEC) of the Congress in your various states to have a successful action. The withdrawal of services becomes effective Sunday 2nd June by 12.00 midnight.”

Maritime workers

In the same vein, the President-General of MWUN, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, in a statement through the union’s head of Media, John Ikemefuna, directed members in the nation’s ports “to comply with the directive of both NLC and TUC to join in the indefinite total lockdown of the country commencing from Monday, June 3, 2024.
“The indefinite nationwide strike has become very imperative, given the failure of the federal government on the logjam and the inconclusive national minimum wage negotiation and refusal to reverse the hard biting hike in electricity tariff.

“Given the foregoing, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria has directed its members in all ports nationwide, jetties, terminals, oil & gas platforms to effectively ensure the total compliance of the strike as directed by the NLC and TUC. This is also to serve as notice to all our concerned stakeholders in the Maritime sector.”

“In total compliance with the directives from the NLC, you are hereby directed to mobilize for effective participation in your respective Zonal Councils/Domestic Committee and ensure total compliance.

Electricity workers

Also, a notice by the President and Acting General of NUEE, Adebiyi Adeyeye and Dominic Igwebike, said “With reference to the circular from NLC dated May 31, 2024, we are to mobilise and embark on an indefinite nationwide strike starting Monday, June 3, 2024, by 0.00hour due to the following failure of the Nigerian government to implement and sign into law the new national minimum wage on or before 31st May 2024, Non-reversal of the electricity tariff which was hiked from N65/kwh to N225/kwh without consulting the stakeholders as required by the law and Apartheid categorization of Nigeria electricity consumers into bands.

“Given the above, all National, State, and Chapter executives are requested to start the mobilization of our members in total compliance with this directive to ensure the Government does the right thing as stated above.
“You are encouraged to work with the leadership of State Executive Councils (SEC) of the Congress in your various states to have a successful action. The withdrawal of services becomes effective Sunday 2nd June by 12.00 midnight.”

Maritime workers

In the same vein, the President-General of MWUN, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, in a statement through the union’s head of Media, John Ikemefuna, directed members in the nation’s ports “to comply with the directive of both NLC and TUC to join in the indefinite total lockdown of the country commencing from Monday, June 3, 2024.
“The indefinite nationwide strike has become very imperative, given the failure of the federal government on the logjam and the inconclusive national minimum wage negotiation and refusal to reverse the hard biting hike in electricity tariff.

“Given the foregoing, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria has directed its members in all ports nationwide, jetties, terminals, oil & gas platforms to effectively ensure the total compliance of the strike as directed by the NLC and TUC. This is also to serve as notice to all our concerned stakeholders in the Maritime sector.”

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