19th July, 2011
By midnight tomorrow, the country would have been shut down by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, the two central workersâ€™ unions in the country, following their decision to go ahead with the nationwide strike to protest what they claimed was governmentâ€™s unwillingness to implement the N18,000 new minimum wage.
The two unions have for sometime now been accusing the federal and state governments of insincerity and indifference to the implementation of the new wage.
While the Federal Government tried to circumvent the new minimum wage law by excluding senior staff of government ministries, parastatals and agencies from enjoying the new wage, the state governments on the other hand insisted that they cannot pay the wage until the revenue allocation formula is reviewed to accommodate the new increase in wage.
The two unions, acting jointly, two weeks ago, served notice of their intention to call out their members on nationwide strike to protest both the federal and state governmentsâ€™ footdragging on the payment of the national minimum wage signed into law in March by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Tomorrowâ€™s action which is the beginning of the three-day warning strike to herald an indefinite one until the governments begin payment of the new wage, we have been made to understand by organised labour, will lead to total paralysis of government and commercial activities.
According to the Deputy President of the NLC and Chairman of the National Labour Strike Coordinating Committee, Promise Adewusi, workers on essential duties like the power sector, seaport, hospital and airport will be barred from resuming at their duty posts.
Adewusi also disclosed that there will be no movement as no vehicle will be allowed to ply the roads to make the strike effective. He implored Nigerians to fill their homes with food to last them for the duration of the three-day warning strike.
Going by Labourâ€™s determination to go ahead with the nationwide strike, it is a matter of simple conjecture for anybody to imagine what the nation stands to lose as a result of the impending strike. The economic and social implications of allowing the strike to go on simply outweigh the cost of the concession government should make to make labour call off the strike.
This is why we feel everything should be done to avert the strike and prevent total paralysis of economic activities nationwide.
Both the government and organised labour should find a meeting point before tomorrow to avert the strike. Granted, labour has a justifiable reason to embark on strike, having waited four months for the government to begin the implementation of the new wage, but it is our plea that it should exercise some flexibility. Organised labour should tread softly and reach a meeting point with the government towards implementing the new wage bill.
It is gratifying to note that the federal and state governments have seen the determination of labour to ensure the implementation of the new wage law and have signified their intention to pay the wage. To this end, the governments should tie the loose ends by signing an agreement with labour for the implementation of the new wage. In fact, we propose that the government meets labour today and specify the date it will start paying the N18,000 minimum wage.
This is no time to disrupt the economic activities of the country because right now, Nigerians are suffering and are looking up to the present administration for succour. Nothing should be done to compound their woes.
We implore President Jonathan to once again take the initiative by meeting with the leadership of both the NLC and TUC to find a way of averting the nationwide strike.