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.
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.
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.
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 issue 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:
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:
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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 Â¬-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."
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