By Oji Odu
It is 11 days to November 6, 2018 doomsday. The battle line drawn with no retreat, no surrender stance by organised labour to shut down the nation unless Federal Government rescinds its decision not to pay the Nigerian worker a minimum wage of above N25,000 and agree to pay the N30,000 allegedly agreed with labour. Nigerians are in for harsher times and suffering.
Indeed, November 6, 2018 will surely come and pass, but will that day be the doomsday that will mark the beginning of another round of suffering for the Nigerian people? Will the Federal Government, as usual, reach a compromise before then or not? Does organised labour have the capacity to shut down the nation, and will it go ahead with its threat? How has government taken its threat?
Following the inability of the Federal Government and organised labour to arrive at meeting point over new minimum wage, the later has announced that an indefinite nationwide strike will commence November 6, beginning with protest march on November 30.
This was contained in a statement on Sunday by President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, and that of the United Labour Congress (ULC).
The labour unions are saddened over government’s claim that no amount was agreed with them at a meeting of a tripartite committee as well as the FG’s stance that it could only increase the minimum wage from the current N18,000 to N24,000. According to the labour unions, N30,000 was agreed during negotiation and any amount below the figure would not be accepted.
“…..Thus far, the path to a new national minimum wage has been expectedly littered with betrayal, resistance, half-truths and now almost outright sabotage. That is why it has become urgent that Nigerians are informed of the insistence of the federal government to deliberately create confusion and make the negotiations for a new national minimum wage inconclusive as usual.
“It is not true that we proposed N30,000 as the new national minimum wage. It is also not true that the committee did not agree on a figure during its last sitting. We accepted N30,000 as a compromise to demonstrate the willingness of Nigerian workers to make sacrifices towards nation building.
“Anything to the contrary no matter the quantum and character of the din or how well couched it may appear cannot be true. Resorting to Goebbelsianism at this time of national emergency which requires men and women of integrity is rather unfortunate and cannot suddenly make the brazen falsehoods truths.
“We believe that it has become necessary for the Organised Private Sector (OPS) as represented in the Tripartite Committee to speak up on this matter. Keeping silent in the face of this apparent mischief does our nation no good. It can only help mischief, dishonesty and impunity to grow. At this time the OPS does not have any other choice but to rise to the occasion by telling Nigerians what transpired in the meeting.
“They should tell Nigerians whether: there was a motion that was seconded on a final figure; whether there was a document signaling this agreement that had already been signed by some parties?; whether the N30,000 figure was ours or a compromise figure based on proposed scenarios?
“As far as Nigerian workers are concerned and as represented by us, we shall no longer negotiate on a figure for the new minimum wage having reached an agreement on this during the last sitting of the tripartite committee. We cannot continue discussing a figure that has already been agreed procedurally within the committee.
“What we are waiting for is for the federal Government to immediately set in motion the necessary machinery for turning the agreement into a Bill for onward submission to the NASS where we expect the Presidency to work together with the Legislators to make it a law so that it can be implemented quickly…..,” the statement partly read.
Meanwhile the Federal Government seems unperturbed by organised labour’s threat. According to the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, the Organised Labour cannot fix a figure to be paid for Federal Government.
The Minister said this while calling on them to accept the new minimum wage proposal, considering the capacity and ability of the government and the private sector to pay. This call was when the new Director-General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, Timothy Olawale, paid him a courtesy visit in his office last Friday at Abuja.
Ngige pointed out to Olawake that it was imperative for organised labour to accept the proposed figure instead of the N30, 000 in line with social dialogue and the overall interest of the nation.
“We need to arrive at a figure, which the employers can afford to pay as an employee cannot fix a figure for the employer. Rather, it must be based on collective bargaining and mutual agreement by the tripartite partners.
“It is not a function of moving motions or voting at the National Tripartite Negotiation Committee to insist that the figure must be as the organised labour appears to make it look. There is, therefore, absolutely no need to heat up the polity,” he said.
In his reaction to the face-off between organised labour and the federal government over new minimum wage, Itah Peters, a Sociologist expressed sadness over what he described as untrustworthiness of government on sensitive national issues.
“ There are many instances that one can show how untruthful and unreliable our leaders are. What labour is fighting for is right and people should not play politics with it at the detriment of the lives of Nigerians.
At N30,000 and at an average of 30 day monthly, it means that the Nigerian worker will have a paltry one thousand naira to survive-pay house rent, electricity bill of not less than seven thousand naira every month due to the crazy billing, pay school fees, feed his family of about five, cater for his extended family, pay neighbourhood security fee of N500 monthly, transport himself to and fro work daily et cetera.
However, at governments N25,000 monthly minimum wage, the same worker has about N834 daily to try and settle these costs. I agree with Peter Adetunde, a Civil Servant, that this minimum wage is the same as maximum trouble. Whether N18,000, N25,000, N30,000 or N40,000, it is still serious living in hell for the Nigerian worker based on the strangling economic situation. The truth still remains that the Nigerian workers worst day is his pay day when he is paid any of the minimum wage.”
Tokunbo Eniola, a student, expressed much anger in a chat with the Magazine on the issue. “ Imagine how government is so insensitive that rather than proactively find a solution to this problem, it is tell us how it has lifted about N10million Nigerians out of poverty level. What was the magic?
“According to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, the government had provided 8.96million school children under the home grown School Feeding Programme; over 297,000 poor and vulnerable Nigerians supported with cash transfer of N5,000; successfully disbursed more than 308,000 loans of N50,000 under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and 200,000 young unemployed graduates empowered through the N-Power scheme , while over 308,000 had been selected for consideration for the second batch,” he said.
Eniola regretted that rather than being proactive and productive, is trying to deceive Nigerians with their sweet tonguing of enjoyment in hopelessness. “To me, the minimum wage still remains ‘Maximum Hell’ to the Nigerian worker because, he must have to deep his hands in different other things to survive, otherwise he remains a walking corpse,” he added.
As the D-day draws nearer, the Magazine’s findings reveal that many seem not to be disturbed into panic buying and stocking their homes to cushion the effects of the strike. “ Wait until the strike begins and the oil and gas sector join,” Eniola said.