MINIMUM WAGE: Labour draws battle line with govt; says no N30,000, no votes
LEADERS of Organised Labour, workers and their civil society allies, yesterday, trooped into the major streets across the country as part of the sensitisation of workers and Nigerians for November 6, 2018 commencement date of a nationwide indefinite strike to compel government to peg a new minimum wage at N30,000, threatening “no N30,000 new minimum wage, no votes” in 2019 general elections. Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, had declared yesterday, a day of national mourning and sensitisation of workers and Nigerians ahead of the November 6, start date of a nationwide strike. The federal and state governments have since declined any N30,000 minimum wage agreement. Lagos In Lagos, protests rally which kicked off from Ojuelegba Bridge, through Ikorodu Road to Gani Fewehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota, crippled activities on the ever busy road causing heaving gridlock on both sides of the road and its environs. The protesters displayed placards with inscriptions such as “No minimum wage, No work from November 6”, “Minimum Wage of N30, 000 not negotiable”, “Minimum wage will boost Nigerian economy’, “Upward review of Minimum wage will not trigger inflation”, “Ngige and governors do not own Nigeria, Nigeria belongs to all workers,, “N30,000 minimum wage, no more, no less” among others. Addressing the protesters at the Maryland roundabout and at Ojota freedom park, leaders of the protesters and President of ULC, Joe Ajaero, declared that from November 6, it would to total war with government until the N30,000 new minimum wage was achieved. According to him, whatever the governors meeting yesterday came out with would be of no effect unless they agreed to implement the N30,000 minimum wage, insisting that there would be no more negotiation because the Tripartite committee appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, had finished its assignment and submitted its report to the President. He said: “We are on the road because of government insensitivity to the welfare of workers and Nigerians. We are on the road to sensitise workers and Nigerians about the November 6 commencement date of a nationwide indefinite strike. We are on the road to tell the government that enough is enough. The November 6 will be the mother of all strikes in Nigeria. Posterity will judge us if we fail to rise up to defend Nigerian workers. We are on the road to the government that no N30, 000 minimum wage, no votes. There is no good healthcare and electricity tariff is far more than 18,000 minimum wage and the tariff continue to increase.” Similarly, a Vice President of NLC, Amechi Asugwuni told Nigerians to stock food stuff and other necessities ahead of the November 6, strike. Stock up foods, Labours tells Nigerians According to him, “the struggle is to defend the people of this country and the mourning day is to sensitise workers and other Nigerians to stockpile food stuff and other necessities in their houses because once we commence the strike, there will be no going back except government agree to our terms and conditions. The minimum wage is a legitimate right for Nigerian workers. Abuja In Abuja, labour leaders frowned at Federal Government’s delay in the process of promulgating new National Minimum Wage for workers in the country. Speaking, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said “We call on the Federal Government to take necessary steps to ensure the enactment of a new national minimum wage act as we cannot guarantee industrial peace and harmony.” Wabba explained that the new national minimum wage was both legally and materially due since 2016, saying “the Minimum Wage Act prescribes a five yearly cycle of review.” He also said coupled with the delay, the increase in the pump price of petroleum products by over 85 per cent and the devaluation of the Naira by 100 per cent in 2016, have massively affected the cost of living. According to him, the exchange rate and inflation rose to an all-time high, rendering the N18,000 unjustifiable as basis for continued national minimum wage. “Given the realities of our economic condition, the least any worker should earn is N30,000,” he said. Also, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, TUC president, said implementation of the national minimum wage was imperative as workers in the country were faced with hard times. Kaigama called on the Federal and State Governments to do the needful as N30,000 was not too much for them to pay workers as minimum wage. “They cannot say they do not have money; the political office holders have the money and also the government. We also know how much they are putting into politics and the forthcoming general elections. “Workers are not slaves but rather they create the wealth of the nation, they cannot continue to suffer. After all the minimum wage is long overdue,” he said. Bayelsa ready to pay N30,000 In Yenagoa, Bayelsa State Government, assured civil servants in the state of its readiness to pay the N30,000 minimum wage being demanded by the organised labour if it was generally accepted. Governor Seriake Dickson gave the assurance yesterday in Government House while receiving protesting delegation of leaders and members of the organised labour. Represented by the State Head of Service, Mr Luca Obiri, he noted that already the state government had set up modalities for the implementation of whatever decision reached with Labour. His words: “I want to assure Bayelsa workers that government is in support of your quest for new minimum wage. The N30,000 minimum wage will be implemented by the state government. In an anticipation to that he (the governor) has directed the Head of Service and the state Finance Committee to start working out the modalities for the implementation of whatever decision that is agreed will be adhere to.” I will pay any amount adopted as minimum wage—Ortom In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom, promised to pay any amount agreed upon by the negotiating committee on minimum wage. Ortom spoke in Makurdi, when members of organised labour visited him to register their support for the upward review of wages. Ortom, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Terwase Orbunde, said that he was not against the upward review of workers’ minimum wages “in spite of the current economic challenges bedeviling the country.” He said: “I will work in line with the outcome of the new minimum wage committee. I am known for championing improved welfare for workers. I did it when I was the Chairman of Guma Local Government Area. When I came on board as governor, primary school teachers were not receiving the N18,000.00 minimum wage. I stepped up their salaries without waiting for them to mount pressure on me to do so. I wanted them to be at par with other civil servants in the state.” Ekiti gov says Labour’s agitation legitimate In Ado-Ekiti, Governor Kayode Fayemi of the state, described workers, agitations as legitimate and worthy of being given considerations by governments. This came as workers marched round some major streets in the state from Mobil Filling Station in Ajilosun area of Ado Ekiti to the Governor’s office. Fayemi, who was represented by the Chief of Staff, Biodun Omoleye and the Head of Service, Dr. Gbenga Faseluka, said: “My government as you all know is labour friendly. The agitations for new National Minimum Wage is legitimate and let me tell you, my government will never allow workers to go hungry again by working without getting their pay. The present wages you are taking can no longer take you half home, as responsible government, we must listen to your voices. We will take your demands to the Governors’ Forum and we will put up a voice for you there.” In Anambra, no pay, no work, no votes In Awka, Anambra State, labour leaders also resolved to down tools on November 6, unless the demand for a Minimum Wage of N30,000 was implemented, saying “no pay, no work no vote.” President of Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Associations, NASU, Chris Ani, who led the protest, spoke at New Freedom Square, Awka. He lamented that “the N30,000 equals N1000 per day for a worker and is equivalent to N50 per day for a family of six that contends with rent, school fees electricity bill, transportation and tax.” Ogun Also, in Abeokuta, protesting members of organised labour shut down some part of the state as they marched through major streets of Abeokuta, to sensitise the citizens of the state ahead of the impending nationwide strike over the minimum wage. They warned they would proceed on total strike from November 6, 2018, if the government failed to accept to pay the N30,000 minimum wage being demanded. Labour seeks end to oppression in Oyo Led by the state chairmen, NLC and TUC, Mr Waheed Olojede and , Mr Emmanuel Ogundiran, Labour protesting in Ibadan, said: “We are saying no to oppression; Nigerian workers say it is our rights to earn what we deserve and that is why we are on the streets today.” “My colleague has said it, come the 6th of next month, there will be total cessation of work, no Nigerian worker should, upon our directive, upon the directive from the national leadership, stay at home; be you a press man, they may say you’re essential, are you being paid for what you’re worth?” Kogi In Lokoja, Organised labour in Kogi State, insisted that workers would not accept anything less than N30, 000 minimum wage. State chairman of NLC, Onuh Edoka, led the workers who marched through some streets in the state capital before they stormed Government House to meet with Governor Yahaya Bello. Taraba In Jalingo, Organised Labour in Taraba State, vowed to cripple the state from November 6, if government failed to accept to pay N30,000 minimum wage as agreed. The protesters who started from the Ministry of Works in Jalingo to the Government house, threatened to shut down markets, offices among others in compliance with the strike scheduled to commence on November 6 if government fails to accede to their demands. Enugu Also in Enugu, leaders of organized labour in Enugu State, trooped to the major streets in the state to sensitise workers and Nigerians ahead of the November 6 strike to press home their demand for the N30, 000 minimum wage. Mr Ben Asogwa, the secretary to Trade Union Congress (TUC) who spoke to pressmen at the Enugu State Secretariat, said “We are mobilising workers for the forthcoming nationwide strike to press home our demand for N30, 000 minimum wage. I think it is in the domain of the media houses that the Nigeria Labour Congress presented N66, 000 for minimum wage and the end product after series of negotiation was N30, 000. The Federal Government refused to adopt it so we are hosting the rally because by mid-night Nov. 6, the nationwide strike will begin. No Minimum wage, No vote in 2019 in C’ River NLC declares In the same vein, leaders of organized labour in Cross River State, led thousands of workers both in the private and public sector to march through major streets in the state ahead of November 6 strike over a new minimum wage. ‘We are workers and have had prolonged negotiation with government for an increase in our salaries and this was agreed at 30,000 naira but surprisingly, the Minister of labour, Ngige after we had agreed came up again to ask for another round of negotiation and we say no to that kind of action. “We are asking for increase in our salaries because we are tired of buying garri on credit, salt on credit, magi on credit and even the houses we live in we keep being asked to pack out because we cannot pay rents” Ita Ayi, State Secretary of the NLC told traders at the Watt Market. Imo State In Owerri, Imo State, labour leaders insisted on the implementation of N30,000 new national minimum wage. In a sensitization rally in Owerri, NLC Chairman, Austin Chilakpu, said that N18,000 minimum wage was unacceptable to them and that it was for that reason they are demanding for increase of salary. The workers in their hundreds marched round the major streets in the state capital with their placards, adding that there was no going back on their demands.