Labour unions in Nigeria are insisting that despite a court order, they will commence a nationwide, indefinite strike from November 6 if the government refuses to meet their demands on a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
The unions are demanding N30,000 as minimum wage insisting the amount had been agreed at a triparite meeting involving them, the government and private employers of labour.
The federal government, however, insisted on a N24,000 minimum wage, while state governors after a meeting last week said they would only accept a N22,500 minimum wage.
The minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, expressed reservations that the N22,500 is lower than that recommended by the federal government.
Mr Ngige, who spoke during an interview with Channels Television on Wednesday said the federal government is not in support of the state government’s proposal.
“The governors have not even done enough. I told them that this N22,500 was even rejected by the federal government,” the minister said.
“The national minimum wage is a national legislation being driven by the federal government of Nigeria in pursuance to item 34 of the exclusive legislative list. But you don’t go and make a law which people will disobey at the initial,” he said.
But the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, said they have agreed to pay N22,500 to workers.
Mr Yari, who is also the governor of Zamfara State explained that the acceptable minimum wage “must be done in such a way that total personnel cost does not exceed 50 per cent of the revenue available to each state”.
He said the forum is more concerned with the development in infrastructure, health, educational sectors.
“The welfare of all Nigerians is our ultimate concern. In all our states, we are concerned about the deteriorating economic situation experienced by the vulnerable segment of our population,” Mr Yari said.
A court on Friday ordered labour unions not to commence the planned strike.
Juustice Sanusi Kado of the National Industrial Court gave the order following an ex-parte motion filed by the federal government and the attorney general if the federation.
But the labour minister in the statement on Friday said a reconciliation meeting involving organised labour, the organised private sector and the government scheduled for Sunday remained unchanged despite the court order.
The conciliation meeting is scheduled for November 4 at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation by 6 p.m.
Mr Ngige said this would be followed by another meeting of the National Tripartite Minimum Wage Committee meeting on Monday, November 5 at the same venue.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES Friday night, the national president of United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero, said the unions are not aware that the issue had been taken to the industrial court.
“None of us is aware of this development. We are not aware that any trade dispute has been declared and we have not been served. What we don’t understand is whether the injunction is to prevent the Nigerian workers from collecting N30,000 or it is from another reason , we have not been told,” he said
According to him, “the federal said they are inviting us for a meeting and how can they have a court order and invite us for the meeting at the same time because we can not negotiate under duress”.
Mr Ajaero said the only meeting the unions can honour is where the ” agreement for the minimum wage will be signed and forwarded to National Assembly for enactment”.
“The whole picture is not clear to us, we cannot tolerate if it is a black market injunction. The Supreme Court said parties involved must be put on notice for them to have a case but as for today, we are not aware. Well, they asked us to come for a meeting by 6 p.m. on Sunday and another one on Monday,” Mr Ajaero said.
Similarly, the General Secretary of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Peter Ozo Eson said the nationwide strike can only be called off “if the condition to prevent the strike are met before November 6″.
“We are not aware of any such development, strike has been called and we are going on strike except the demands are met,” Mr Ozo Eson said.
“To us, it is still a rumour because we are not even aware of it. We are not legally bound and the strike will commence and nothing will stop us,” the General Secretary, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Musa Lawal said.
Mr Lawal said the indefinite strike can only be stopped when the government fulfilled its part on the minimum wage issue.
“From November 6, be sure that we will be on the road and nothing is going to stop us,” he said.