We, members of the organised labour, would want to formally inform all employers of labour and Nigerians that beginning from midnight, Wednesday, September 26, 2018, workers from all sectors of the economy and our civil society allies will begin a nation-wide warning strike action over the refusal of the federal government to reconvene the meeting of the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee to enable it conclude its work.
The action is in compliance with the decision of the various organs of the organized labour which endorsed the 14-day ultimatum served on the federal government by members of the organised labour who are members of the Tripartite Committee on the new National Minimum Wage.
The labour organs further mandated the leadership to take all necessary steps including a warning strike in the first instance to compel the government to reconvene the meeting of the committee in order to bring it to a logical conclusion.
In compliance with this mandate, all workers in the public and private sectors at all levels across the country have been directed to comply. Industrial unions, state councils, all worker organistions and our civil society allies have been directed to step up mobilization of their members.
All public and private institutions, offices, banks, schools, public and private business premises including filling stations are to remain shut till further notice. All those who mean well for this country are to see to the success of this action. Furthermore, this action is to remain in force until further directives are given.
Although the issues have been very much in the public domain, for the purpose of this strike action, we find it necessary to offer this further explanation.
The National Minimum Wage Committee was inaugurated in November 2017 but commenced work in March 2018 with timelines to deliver on its mandate of arriving at a new national minimum wage in August/ September 2018. The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige himself in February this year during the 40th anniversary celebration of the Nigeria Labour Congress, assured workers that they would have a new minimum wage in September.
In order to meet this deadline, the committee, in spite of challenges, worked assiduously and meticulously. In the course of the work of the committee, members had ample time to consult and to take memoranda from across the country and across the sectors. The committee was satisfied that it received memoranda and inputs from 21 state governments, specialised agencies of the federal government, the organised private sector, organised labour and the general public.
This was reason why the Organised Labour was outraged and shell-shocked by the decision of Government to adjourn the meeting of the Committee indefinitely to enable consultations by the Federal Government team
The decision was against the principle of collective bargaining. Organized Labour considered the conduct of the government as an act of bad faith and an insult to its members, who out of uncommon sacrifice and patriotism had hearkened to government’s appeal to delay negotiation for a new national minimum wage by two years.
Expectedly, the minister’s pronouncement generated instant considerable tension among workers and provoked sharp reactions from the unions which justifiably argued that the government was only out to waste their time and was not prepared to pay a new national minimum wage.
Concerned that his pronouncement would be capable of rubbishing the work of the committee, cast doubt on the integrity of the government as well as cause serious nation-wide industrial disharmony, members of the Organsed Labour reached out to the government to reconsider this decision, but it was rebuffed.
Left with no other option, members of the Organised Labour served a 14-day notice on the government which to reconvene the meeting of the committee to enable it conclude its work.
These are clear signs that the government is not ready for a new national minimum wage. It has only been taking workers for a ride, it has only been taking advantage of workers misplaced abiding faith or trust. Given this circumstance, this warning strike is absolutely necessary. It is a precursor to the main strike which will be the mother of all strikes!
The justification for a new national minimum wage cannot be over argued and it is not about salary-earning Nigerians only. May we remind all Nigerians that before this government increased the pump price of petroleum products by over 80% and devalued the Naira by over a 100%, commodity prices were considerably cheaper, tariffs were more friendly, rents and transportation charges were bearable, while wages of workers have remained static.
Today, these things have all changed! The economic decisions of this government led to fundamental consequential effects on workers and citizenry including unbearable electricity tariffs, punitive exchange rate, and hyper inflation, all of which led to a rising cost of living for workers and other Nigerians, and bad business for business people.
Government in appreciation of these hardships, set up the Palliatives Committee to fashion out mitigatory strategy, policies, and programmes to cushion the vagaries of its policies, but to date, we are not aware that any of the recommendations of the Committee has been implemented.
Government’s pronouncement goes to cast further doubt on the integrity of the government as well as underscores the inherent danger in doing business with Government. It is beginning to look like this Government does not intend to keep its promises to workers. And take note, when workers and other Nigerians do not have capacity to purchase goods or services, businesses die. This is not about salaried people. It is about everyone. It is about a chain. So stay at home.
We understand that the governors forum issued a statement that the governors cannot and should not be compelled to pay a national minimum wage. First, the governors forum is not known to law.
We do believe that the reasons why governors find it difficult to pay the national minimum wage are lack of political will, high level of corruption, excessive cost of governance, indulgence in obscene lifestyle, white elephant projects, etc. In any case, while commending the governors that have indicated their readiness to pay a new national minimum wage, we advise those who are not prepare to pay to go back to their states and tell the workers in their states that they will not pay. We can only wish them goodluck.
We at this point therefore find it necessary to caution against any attempt by government at any level to blackmail workers or their unions because we have been patient, considerate and patriotic.
Indeed, government ought to have commended workers and their unions for waiting patiently for two years before commencing negotiations for a new national minimum wage. We advise that our disposition should not be taken for granted.
At this juncture, we make bold to say that the directive of NECA to organise private sector is in bad taste and should be discountenanced. Once again, we call on all workers in the public, private and in the informal sector to please stay at home till further notice as this strike is total. Any organisation public or private which forces its workers to risk coming to work during the tendency of the strike will have itself to blame.
We know this decision may not be easy for some who have to eke a living from hour to hour but no sacrifice can be too much for a better tomorrow.
ALL POLITICAL OFFICE HOLDERS, FROM COUNCILORS TO GOVERNORS RECEIVE SAME SALARIES ACCORDING TO THEIR GROUP ACROSS THE COUNTRY. SO MINIMUM WAGE IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. THEY MUST PAY.