Minimum Wage Strike: Govs, Labour In Crucial Meeting

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Nigeria state governors are meeting with the workers’ unions in what seems a last minute effort to avert the three-day national strike over the N18,000 minimum wage scheduled by the Nigeria Labour Congress and its affiliated unions to begin tomorrow.

 

Information available to P.M.NEWS this afternoon indicated that the meeting will hold at the Rivers State Liaison office in Asokoro area of Abuja.

 

Rotimi Amaechi, the Governor of Rivers State who is also the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum will lead the team of states’ chief executives in the negotiations with the labour unions.

 

Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar and Peter Esele, President, NLC and TUC respectively, are leading the labour team to the talks.

 

The meeting between the governors and the labour unions which was scheduled to kick off by 12 noon today had not yet started as at the time of writing this report.

 

The outcome of the meeting will decide whether Nigerian workers will have to stay at home for the rest of this week starting from tomorrow.

 

The states’ chief executives had last Saturday indicated their willingness to pay the new national minimum wage, but fell short of stating the modalities they will adopt in the payment.

 

Governor Amaechi, who announced the resolve of his colleagues to implement the new minimum wage law, told journalists that each governor will have to negotiate with his workers on the mode of payment.

 

The labour unions had consequently rejected the promise and instead demanded for a comprehensive payment plan from the governors.

 

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Talks between labour and the Federal Government over the new national minimum wage ended in a deadlock on Monday as the Federal Government insisted that it will only commence payment to workers on grade level 07 to 17 in the Federal Civil Service in January, 2012.

 

Anyim Pius Anyim, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, at a meeting with leaders of the NLC, TUC, and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, on Monday said there are problems with the interpretation of the National Minimum Wage law.

 

Anyim therefore said the meeting with labour was not called to negotiate wages or salaries, but to address the problem of interpreting the National Minimum Wage Act.

 

He said this is because there are no disagreements on the part of the federal and state governments over the payment of the minimum wage.

 

“In order to be sure that we act within the law, is that we pay levels one to six, which we have provided for in the budget, then as we process this year’s budget, we will provide for relativity principle from levels seven to 17. Then from January 2012 we will pay that one. The whole idea is that we have to act within the law,” Anyim told the labour leaders.

 

He, however, said that the Federal Government is ready to implement the new minimum wage for level 01 to 06 in its employ.

 

But his appeal fell on deaf ears as the leaders of the NLC and TUC, after a closed-door session, vowed to proceed with the three-day strike, just as they asked the Federal Government to make emergency appropriation as it did with the release of about N100 billion for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the 2011 General Elections.

 

The Labour Unions have said the strike, slated for July 20 to 22, 2011, will be the “mother of all strikes.”

 

—Oluokun Ayorinde/Abuja