The Federal Government pleaded yesterday with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to drop its threat of industrial action at the end of the month over the proposed N30,000 national minimum wage.
Reacting to the 10-day ultimatum issued on Thursday by the labour leadership to the federal authorities to transmit the minimum wage bill to the National Assembly for consideration immediately, Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed advocated ‘continuous engagement’ between the two sides with a view to resolving their differences.
“Continuous engagement, I think, is the key. We will continue to engage them and I think they do also fully understand what the challenges are, and both parties are determined to ensure that a common ground is arrived at, which will be comfortable for all,” Mohammed told reporters after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
But the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) claimed that the delay by the federal government in forwarding the minimum wage bill to the National Assembly was a demonstration of acute insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian workers, their families and ordinary citizens.
The NLC also condemned what it described as sustained deployment of brute force by political office holders to harass, hound and victimise workers and labour leaders, vowing that such actions would no longer be acceptable to workers in the country.
The Information Minister described the NLC as “a very patriotic union”, and expressed confidence that it would do nothing capable of embarrassing the government or Nigerians.
His words: “The Nigeria Labour Congress is a very patriotic union and I am very confident that they will not do anything that will embarrass the government or do anything that is going to worsen the situation.
The National Executive Council of the NLC also met in Abuja yesterday to review the minimum wage issue, branding federal government’s handling of the matter as a demonstration of acute insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian workers, their families and ordinary citizens.
The NLC NEC also condemned alleged sustained deployment of brute force by political office holders to harass, hound and victimize workers and labour leaders.
It vowed that such harassments would no longer be tolerated.
It spoke of plan to embark on a national sensitization of workers from January 8, 2019, especially against state governors who have formed the habit of not paying workers’ salaries.
In a communique signed by NLC President Wabba and the General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, the congress said: “The continued delay by the Federal Government to transmit the Bill of the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly for enactment into law is unacceptable.
“This leisurely conduct of serious state affairs is even after the National Assembly had passed a resolution urging the President and the executive branch of government to transmit the new national minimum wage amendment bill to it for consideration and passage into law.
“The NEC expressed total dissatisfaction with the consequential delay and unacceptable lethargy in the process of regularising and implementing the new national minimum wage of N30,000. “The calculated inaction of the Federal Government is a demonstration of acute insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian workers, their families and ordinary citizens”
It took strong exception to alleged unrelenting attitude of the Ogun State Government to frustrate efforts to peacefully reinstate the NLC chairman in Ogun State, Comrade Akeem Ambali, who was sacked by the state government in the middle of a 2016 strike action to protest injustice against Ogun State workers.
The NLC said: “The Comrade has been made to suffer unfair treatment for nearly two years on account of the performance of his legitimate duties. This ugly situation has persisted despite repeated emissaries sent to the Ogun State governor to reconsider his unsupportable position on the issue.
“The entrenched insensitivity by some state governments and other political office holders to the plight of workers and pensioners, especially in the states owing several months of salary arrears, unpaid pension and gratuity of retired workers.
“It is most unfortunate that many of the governors diverted a significant part of the bailout funds and the Paris Club Refund initiatives meant to offset salaries, pension and gratuity owed workers and pensioners for purposes of personal aggrandizement and to fund non-impactful frivolous programmes and projects.
“The NEC demanded a full investigation by the EFCC of the disbursement of all bailout, Paris Club refund and budget support releases to the states.”
Besides, it condemned “the trampling upon the fundamental human rights and freedom of association by the Ogun State Governor especially pertaining to the irresponsible purported proscription of trade union rights in Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.
“The NEC also denounced the continued refusal to pay the salaries of workers in the College of Education for nearly three years.
“The NEC expressed grief for the needless loss of lives and unbearable suffering by workers of the Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu Ode, as a result of Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s flagrant disrespect of the rights of workers of the Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, to their wages and salaries;
“To further engage the Ogun State Government, for the final time, for a peaceful resolution of the issues already highlighted and the reinstatement of the Chairman of the Ogun State Council, Comrade Akeem Ambali. Thereafter, in the spirit of “injury to one is an injury to all”, the NLC may be left with no option than to mobilize workers all over Nigeria for sustained industrial action in Ogun State;
“That all state governments still owing workers arrears of salaries, pension and gratuity must settle all their wage liabilities before the 2019 general election. The NEC reiterates its earlier directives to workers all over the country not only to vote out State Governors and other political office holders owing workers but also, to mobilize their families and friends to ensure that all elected public office holders who are not worker-friendly are voted out of office in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
“Nigerian workers are also directed to support in full force the re-election bid of all state governors and political office holders who are worker-friendly and up to date in the payment of workers’ salaries and gratuity cum pension for retired workers.”
The NLC also protested what it called the un-abating neglect of the education sector by both the Federal and State governments.
It said: “This utter abandonment of the development of the human capital of our country has been chiefly exemplified by the refusal of government to respect the agreement it freely entered with ASUU, especially the Memorandum of Action of November 2017.”
On its planned nationwide mobilization of workers on the delay by the Federal Government in transmitting, enacting and implementing the new national minimum wage of N30,000,it said the protests should “hold in all State capitals and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja on 8th January, 2019. The NEC mandates all industrial unions and state councils to fully mobilise workers and coordinate with other labour unions for this mother-of-all protest.”
It asked the Federal Government to honour its 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoA) Agreement with ASUU in order to restore sanity and raise the quality of the products of our public universities.