Isa Aremu Seeks Living Wage For Workers
There are strong indications that the labour movement and its allies will suspend the on-going strike action tomorrow. The Guardian exclusively gathered in Abuja yesterday that this follows an assurance by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari of direct intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari upon his return from the just-ended 73rdsession of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA73).
It was gathered that the Chief of Staff requested the delegation of the labour movement led by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba to furnish him with the details of how the negotiation snowballed into a nationwide strike.
After listening to the submission of labour, the Chief of Staff reportedly assured the labour movement that the President would prioritise the issue towards early resolution and requested the movement to suspend the strike. In his response, Wabba said they could not unilaterally declared the strike suspended, but have to report the outcome of the discussion to relevant organs before a final decision is made.
To this end, the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other allies are expected to meet in Abuja tomorrow (Sunday) where the strike would likely be pronounced suspended. A source privy to the negotiations said: “The organised labour has the assurance of the Chief of Staff that Mr. President would prioritise the matter as soon as he comes back from his trip to the United States.
“Though he requested labour to suspend the strike based on that assurance, labour told him that they have to go back to their organs to report what had transpired. It is those organs that would suspend the strike if they are convinced that enough progress has been made in the negotiation. It is only then that the decision to suspend the strike would be taken. “However, from all indications, the strike would be suspended after the meeting of the organs which is slated for Sunday afternoon.”
Meanwhile, more trade unions are declaring their support for the strike action. The latest are the Non-Academic Staff of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN). The General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, who handed down the directive during the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union in Abuja yesterday berated the Federal Government for not providing the figures needed by the tripartite committee on minimum wage negotiation to conclude its work.
Also, the President of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Biobelemoye Josiah said all the members of the union have been directed to comply with the strike action until contrary directive is issued by the NLC. Adeyemi, who is also the Deputy General Secretary of NLC, said all its members have been directed to withdraw their services immediately until the action is suspended by the NLC.
Josiah said in Abuja that minimum wage is a law that does not need rigorous debate as it has an inbuilt standard. “As the organized labour in conjunction with civil society allies commence warning strike to protest the refusal of the Federal Government to order the immediate resumption of the meeting of the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee in order for them to conclude their work, we at the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, wish to register our unalloyed support to the Nigeria Labour Congress under the able leadership of Ayuba Wabba.”
He made reference to the clause in the National Minimum Wage Act of 2004, which stipulates that minimum wage should be reviewed after every five years. According to him, the last review in 2011 was done after seven years, while the new review ought to have happened since 2016. Josiah accused government of not being sensitive to the plight of workers as soon as the price of crude oil improved in the international market.
He further argued that the declaration of Nigeria as the capital of the extreme poor people on earth ought to have spurred government into putting more money in the hands of workers towards rejigging the economy rather than stifle the working masses through poor pay. He submitted that the organised labour has indeed exhibited a high sense of patriotism for enduring non-implementation of a new wage for more than two years, saying, “we have watched with keen interest unfolding events leading to this unfortunate situation and are convinced that organized labour has exhibited the highest level of civility, patience and respect for due process in the quest for the legitimate aspirations of the working class.”
We were however shocked to learn that the government had decided to adjourn the meeting of the committee indefinitely with a purported intention to enable consultations. The MHWUN boss argued that with the price of petrol increased from N87 per litre to N145 per litre, devaluation of the Naira, increment of electricity tariffs, punitive exchange rate and hyper inflation have all connived to increase the pressure on the earnings of Nigerian workers.
He lamented that Nigerians are yet to feel the effects of government’s promise to mitigate the hardships even with the setting up of a palliatives committee to fashion out strategies, policies and programmes to cushion the vagaries of its unfriendly policies.The gubernatorial candidate of Labour Party in Kwara State, Isa Aremu said the key to achieving a sustainable development is labour productivity in both public and private sectors, which is only possible with motivated and highly remunerated workers at work and after work through adequate pensions. He stated that the Labour Party remained committed to a decent work agenda that includes payment of a good living wage to all categories of workers in the public and private sectors, adding, “an investment in human capital is an investment in nation-building. Let's empower the Nigerian worker.”