Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Total strike looms nationwide

THERE is every indication that the three-day warning strike organized by labour will begin tomorrow as the meeting between the Federal Government and labour, yesterday, ended in a deadlock.

Though a meeting between state governors and labour has, however, been scheduled for today, Vanguard can authoritatively report that the outcome of the meeting may not avert the planned strike action.

This came as Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, umbrella body for private sector employers,  declared  as illegal, the planned strike called by Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, to force the implementation of the N18,000 new minimum wage. It called private sector employers not to participate, advising member employers to sanction workers that take part in the strike.

Also, following the raging controversy over the need for a new revenue sharing formulae between the tiers of government, governors of the 36 states of the federation are set to meet with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan tomorrow over the matter.

Vanguard gathered that one of the areas of disagreement  between Federal government and labour, was that, though the Federal government has agreed to spread the minimum wage across board, it claimed it only budgeted for workers on levels 01-06, while the level 7 and above will be paid in 2012 when it will be budgeted for. Also, the government said only the core civil service workers will benefit from the new wage.

To labour, the government’s position is flagrant disobedience of the Minimum Wage Act, because the Act did not segregate between any level of workers or core and non core civil servants.

It will be recalled that the isxsue of limiting the beneficiaries of the new wage to workers on the level 01-06, was the cause of the deadlock of their last meeting on Monday, July 11.

However, according to Vanguard source at yesterday’s meeting, the government team led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Ayim,  told leaders of NLC and TUC that it had accepted to implement the wage across board, but that it only made provisions for levels 01-6 in 2011 budget, saying level 7 and above would only be paid in 2012 when the money  would be budgeted for.

Labour leaders were said to have rejected the government argument and told the government to source for funds as it did when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, asked for billions of unbudgeted fund to organize the April general elections.

They were said to have told government to make supplementary budget to include the money needed to fund the wage bill.

Vanguard gathered that at a closed door session  the government team told the labour leaders that only core civil servants would benefit, while workers of parastatals and agencies would be exempted.

According the source, “we rejected this outright because it is an attempt to divide labour. It is a flagrant disobedience of the Minimum Wage Act. The Act did not segregate workers as the government is trying to do. We have rejected that, and the strike will go on as planned.  As we speak, no employer in both private and public sectors has implemented the wage.”

However, addressing journalists after the meeting, President of NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, said the final decision on the strike would be taken today.

The Government delegation was made up of Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu; Director-General of National Salaries and Wages Commission, Mr. Richard Egbule and Director-General of Budget office.

Labour leaders at the meeting were President of NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar; the President of Trade Union Congress, Comrade Peter Esele; Deputy President of NLC, Comrade Promise Adewusi; Vice president of NLC, Comrade Issa Aremu and Acting General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Owei Lakemfa.

Governors appeal to labour to shelve strike

Rivers State Governor and the Chairman of Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, yesterday, again appealed to the organised labour in the country to shelve its three-day strike action scheduled to begin tomorrow.

In a statement, yesterday in Abuja, the Senior Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Rivers State Governor, David Iyofor, quoted Governor Amaechi to have said that:

“For the sake of our country, in the interest of Nigeria , Labour should please not embark on the strike action tomorrow. With Governors now agreeing to pay the minimum wage, I believe the fundamental issue that should have led to labour going on strike have been resolved.

If there are other issues that are still outstanding, these can be easily resolved through dialogue. We, the governors have accepted to pay the N18, 000 minimum wage, which I believe is the main issue at stake.”

“For the love of our country, in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians, we should not grind our country to a halt for the next three days.

Labour should please not go on strike. The governors and government have shown utmost sincerity to implement the N18,000 minimum wage and to resolve with labour through dialogue what ever issues that may be outstanding.”

Private sector employers say planned strike is illegal

Meanwhile, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, has declared the planned strike illegal and advised private sector employees not to participate.

Though, it urged the government to respect the nation’s law and implement the wage, it warned that any national strike at this time would further cripple the nation’s fragile economy.

At a briefing yesterday, President of NECA, Mr. Richard Uche,  called on government to use its powers to ensure that innocent people were not molested by organized labour.

According to him, “The National Minimum Wage, NMW, specifically states that only employers with staff strength of 50 and above should comply with the law. A review of our labour market would reveal that less than 2% of the workforce in this economy operates in the formal sector, where the.

NMW is most likely to have broad application. In effect, the bulk of the Nigerian workforce, which is in the informal sector of the economy and also in the micro and small scale businesses are’ not affected by the NMW Act 2011. One could further deduce from this that organized labour represents less than 2% of the workforce in our economy.

If these statistics are anything to go by, it then means that organized labour, in view of this strike, would want to sacrifice the interest of the majority of Nigerian workers for the minority, whose employers are still prepared to cater for by implementing the NMW Act.”

“We advise private sector employers not to be jittery or fearful of the so¬-called strike. They should direct their employees, through their internal communication channels, as a matter of necessity, to report for work in spite of the NLC / TUC’s strike. They should make it abundantly clear to their employees that failure to report for work would attract appropriate sanctions based on their terms and conditions of employment.”

“In view of the fact that this intended strike by NLC / TUC is illegal, unnecessary and amount to abuse of trade union right, we call on the Federal Government to rise up to the occasion as it cannot continue to act as a hen-pecked sovereign. Government should, therefore, mobilize the entire security machinery to ensure that movement of Nigerians is not in any way hindered by hoodlums and miscreants, whom the organized labour may want to use to create mayhem in the environment. On no account should the government allow organized labour to trample on the rights of the majority of Nigerians and workers who will want to pursue their legitimate means of livelihood.”

He described what may be lost to the impending strike as “colossal”, warning that it was unnecessary to shut down the entire economy on an issue that now concerns public sector workers who constitute just about two percent of the national workforce.

A battle of no return—LASCO
Meantime, Labour and Civil Socitey Coalition, LASCO, at a meeting in Lagos, said the struggle for the implementation of the new wage was  “a battle of no return until the money gets to their pocket.”

The group which is made up of labour and civil society allies called on Nigerians to fully support the strike and force the government to respect the nation’s law to avoid throwing the nation into a lawless country.

Speaking, Secretary of Lagos Council of NLC, Ismail Bello said “those in governments keep adjusting their wage in line with the rate of inflation. But when it is the turn of the workers, we have to embark on mass rallies for them to initiate it, discusses at the national assembly, to get it implemented, we need to take a strike action. We think it is enough.”

On his part, LASCO’s Mr. Abiodun Aremu, lamented “that Nigeria is the only country plays with its work force. It took the National Assembly 24 hours to approve additional fund for Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to conduct the 2011 general election. But why did the National Assembly fail to do that on the N 18, 000 minimum wages.”
Governors meet Jonathan over revenue sharing formular

Consequent upon the raging controversy over the need for a new revenue sharing formulae between the tiers of government, governors of the 36 states of the federation are set to meet with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan tomorrow over the matter.

Also, the state governors are billed to hold talks with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, this afternoon at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge in the Federal Capital territory, FCT, Abuja

Vanguard has been able to establish that some of the issues the governors would be raising with President Jonathan would include but would not be limited to the issue of a new revenue sharing formula.

Presently, the Federal Government of Nigeria gets 52% of total revenue while the state governments and local governments, along with some special government agencies share the remaining 48%.

Before the meeting with President Jonathan tomorrow, the state governors are to hold a pre-meeting at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge.

The state governors are expected to agree on a common agenda to be presented and pushed at the meeting with President Jonathan which is slated for 9pm same day.

Vanguard was also reliably informed that another very thorny issue the state governors would be discussing with President Jonathan is the now perennial allegations of what a source described as “inappropriate deductions from the Federation Account”.

Vanguard was told that the state governors are expected to extract a commitment from President Jonathan for a new improved revenue sharing formulae in the light of “the decision to implement the actualization of the New Minimum Wage Act, the kernel of which is the N18,000 base line”.

Vanguard gathered that tomorrow’s meeting is likely to be stormy as the state governors are already insisting that an enhanced revenue receipt is the only way they can meet up with the new challenges that would be posed by the payment of the N18,000 minimum wage.

In addition, the talks with labour tomorrow is with a view to making a plea that the warning strike slated for tomorrow be called off “in the face of the agreement by state governors to pay the new minimum wage”, Vanguard was told by a source involved in the governors’ forum activities.



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