The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday urged Nigerian workers and the citizenry to brace up for a prolonged nationwide strike, as the ultimatum it issued to the Federal Government to implement the N30,000 new minimum wage for workers expired. The warning came just as the labour movement lambasted state governors who were of the view that the implementation of N30,000 as new minimum wage was unrealistic and unsustainable. President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, urged the governors who are opposed to the new wage to “throw in the towel and leave” governance to those who have the interest of workers at heart.
In a New Year message to Nigerians, Wabba said the Congress remained committed to the welfare of Nigerian worker’s and the quality of governance in the country. Wabba described 2018 as one of the most traumatic years for workers especially given the failure of government to enact and implement the new national minimum wage of N30, 000. “This is in spite of the unimpeachable tripartite process leading to the agreement by the social partners on the new national minimum wage. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government is yet to transmit to the National Assembly an executive bill for the enactment of N30,000 as the new national minimum wage. “Government’s dillydallying on the issue has strained Government-Labour relations with a potential for a major national strike which could just be days away.
“Accordingly, we would use this opportunity to appeal to the government to do the needful by urgently transmitting the bill on the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly. We also would like to use this same opportunity to urge workers to fully mobilize for a prolonged national strike and enforce their right.
“This strike action becomes the inevitable last option for us and we crave the understanding and support of all Nigerians and businesses. We would want to assure workers that their labour, patience and diligence will not be in vain and that this leadership remains committed to giving all that it takes to ensure that they get just and fair wages due to them in a decent work environment appropriate to their well-being.
This leadership is similarly committed to ensuring there is social protection for workers,” he said. Wabba, who called on Nigerians to vote out anyone without capacity to serve with interest of the masses at heart at the 2019 general elections, demanded a probe of state governors who were owing workers’ salaries, pension and gratuity. He further called on the Federal Government to from henceforth, only make available, the Paris Club Fund releases to states who judiciously used previous releases to offset workers’ entitlements “Throughout 2018, the NLC was completely invested in the struggle to protect workers’ interests, promote democratic values, advocate for the rule of law and defend human cum trade union rights. We sustained our fight against anti-labour practices at the work place and insisted on the observance of the rules of decent work and fair wages.
“We kicked against the rising incidence of unemployment, especially, youth unemployment and the danger it portends. We canvassed for the preservation of existing jobs and creation of new sustainable ones through alternative policy options with potential for expanding the economy. “The new year presents great opportunities for workers, pensioners, civil society allies and their friends and families to put their numbers to good use by voting out not on the basis of tribe or religion but purely policy any candidate who cannot serve their interest.
“In furtherance to this, the NLC will intensify the struggle for regular, predictable and appropriate payment of salaries, pension and gratuity. This struggle will continue to be our topmost priority. In 2018 and the years preceding it, we demonstrated our commitment in this regard with rallies in defaulting states. “We also demanded the probe of governors of such states. We went further to call on the Federal Government to make subsequent release of further bail-out funds or Paris Club refund contingent on clear evidence of judicious use for payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities of previous releases. We will continue to insist on accountability,” he added. The NLC said it will continue to insist that elections in Nigeria were free, fair and credible.
“Our focus is particularly trained on the 2019 general elections. The NLC will continue to demand that both the election umpire and political actors play to the rules of the game by shunning violence, election malpractices, vote-buying, manipulation of election rules and politics of bitterness.
“We will also deepen our campaign for good governance and fight against corruption in the same manner that we sustained the campaign for tax justice and illicit financial flows. We also demand that the recovered loot be invested transparently for the benefit of all Nigerians,” he said. Meanwhile, the General Secretary of NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, has expressed displeasure over government’s reluctance to implement the agreed figure of N30,000 as new minimum wage by the tripartite committee constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017, said based on current economic realities, the value of N30,000 was not up to the value of N18,000 few years ago.
According to him, negotiations for a new figure has long ended and all arrangements have been made for the nationwide protest starting on 8th January 2019, over federal government’s failure to meet its ultimatum to implement N30,000 as the new minimum wage for workers which expired yesterday, 31st December 2018. Reacting to statements made by the governors on inability to pay the N30,000, he said: “That is their problem; we have gone beyond that stage, we have done the tripartite committee, we have negotiated. If N30,000 which in value in real terms is technically lower than even the N18,000 in 2010, then I think they need to go and re-examine their thinking to say it is not sustainable.
“We are no longer in the stage of discussion of figures; the figures have been agreed on and all that we require is that it is enacted into law. “We are not going to be forever playing around wasting time discussing unrealistic, non-realistic, and all that type of thing. We have gone beyond that stage, that is the work that was done by the tripartite committee and they should go back and govern if they want to, if they are unable they should throw in the towel and leave.
“The ultimatum was given and it ends today (yesterday). We don’t give empty ultimatum and so on the 8th of January we have already announced there will be rallies across this country thereafter you will know what we are going to do from there on, let them go and put their houses in order.”