CANCELLED STRIKE: Ignorant Workers Stay At Home

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Despite the fact that the three-day warning strike that was to kick off today was called off last night several workers in Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria did not report to work today as some were not aware that the strike had been called off.

After intense deliberation which entered the early hours of Wednesday, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, decided to call off the strike as the Federal Government promised to begin implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wage from next month. Many workers were not aware that the strike had been called off as some did not listen to radio or did not have electricity to listen to it or watch the television.

At the Lagos State Government Secretariat, Alausa this morning, several workers had not reported for work despite the fact that the state government told them in a circular not to join the three-day warning strike.

The usual bubbling secretariat was partially deserted as many offices were shut as at 10.00 am while car parks that used to be filled with cars were partially filled.

Some of the workers who spoke with P.M.NEWS said many staff might not be aware that the strike had been called off as it was very late in the night before the NLC and the government reached a truce.

A staff of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, who crave anonymity, told our reporter that he heard of the strike’s cancellation very late in the night and decided to report for work, saying that many others might not have electricity to view the television, which informed the reason they did not show up for work.

A director in the Public Service Office, PSO who craved anonymity added that the lateness in calling off the strike had definitely affected several staff from coming to work this morning as they were not aware of the development.

He, however, added that some of them would still come to work as they get to know that the strike had been called off from reading the newspapers or television.

Commissioner for Establishment and Pensions, Mrs Florence Oguntuase when contacted said she was in the office with her staff and that she was not aware that some staff did not report to work, saying that she would move round the secretariat to find out.

Also, P.M.NEWS investigation revealed that most banks resumed late for work today.

When our correspondent visited some of the banks located along Ikotun road, it was discovered that the majority of the staff of the banks were not aware that the strike had been called off.

Staff of one of the new generation banks were seen frantically making calls to their colleagues who had not resumed as at 9.45a.m.

One of the staff, who craved anonymity, confirmed to P.M.NEWS that it was not the fault of those who were at home as the bank had agreed to join the action before it was suddenly called off at mid night.

She also said none of those who refused to resume early would be penalised as a result of that.

“The organised labour should have been categorical about the strike action. With the way they went about it yesterday, many had thought that there was no going back. Now, imagine them calling it off while many people were asleep,” she said.

According to her, most banks had witnessed excessive withdrawals by customers who thought the strike would take place.

“Because of this, most of us exhausted ourselves working throughout yesterday,” she explained, adding that she got the information that the strike had been cancelled from her husband.

Also, at most Local Government Councils visited, many of the staff were either ignorant of the new development or that they decided to deliberately enjoy the day by being absent from work.

At the Alimosho Local Government Council, only few workers were seen and they busied themselves discussing issues relating to the strike. Some of the departments had not opened as at the time of filing this report.

Also at the Egbe-Idimu LCDA office, the staff were very few and nothing meaningful was being done. One of them who spoke with P.M.NEWS explained that many of their colleagues would not come even if they are called.

“Ordinarily, they won’t come even if we call them. Many of them must have heard it but I think they deliberately do not want to come. Moreover, they have an excuse which is that the strike was called off very late,” the staff said.

As a result of the botched strike, major roads in Lagos were free from the usual traffic gridlocks on this morning.

The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN reports that many workers in both the public and private sectors were not aware that the strike had been called off as the development did not get to the airwaves till after midnight..

The ever busy roads such as Lagos-Abeokuta, Ikotun-Oshodi, Mile 2-Orile-Constain, were relatively free of traffic as few vehicles were seen plying them.

However, there was still the perennial traffic jam at Orile-Iganmu bus stop caused by the presence of several policemen and members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) controlling vehicular movement.

NAN observed that a journey from Sango-Ota, through Mushin, en route Lagos Island which used to take about three hours on working days, took less than an hour on Wednesday morning.

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Attendance in schools and offices were also observed to be scanty in Lagos Metropolis as at 10 a.m. today.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government had earlier warned its staff against joining the three-day warning strike as it had already begun to implement the N18, 000 minimum wage since January 2011.

A circular circulated to all ministries at the Lagos State Government Secretariat, urged the workers to report to work today as government had not defaulted in paying the new minimum wage package.

The circular signed by the Head of Service, Adesegun Ogunlewe, said rather than down tools, workers should appreciate what the government had done and rededicate themselves and contribute meaningfully to the actualisation of the mission and vision of the present administration.

“The Lagos State Government is compelled to intimate its entire workforce that it is aware of the formal declaration of a three-day warning strike by the two labour congresses-NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC in the country.

“The rationale behind the decision of the labour congresses, for emphasis, is to ensure the implementation of the national minimum wage legislation passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan. The legislation has increased the minimum wage from N7, 500 to N18, 000,” it explained.

It stated that as a proactive government, it was heartening to state that the new salary structure being operated since January 2011 in the state public service had adequately accommodated the provisions of the Act since the least paid worker now earned N18,780 per month as reflected in one of the state’s circulars.

“In the same vein, parastal organisations in the state are being assisted to comply with the minimum wage act. The action of government is driven at ensuring stability in the socio-economic activities of the state which any industrial action might severely hamper.

“Furthermore, the state is seriously concerned about the negative impact of strike to the dispensation of essential safety and security services such as healthcare, water supply, fire services and emergency management to her citizenry,” the government said.

The circular added that “in the light of the foregoing, the state government wishes to “restate that it has complied with the provisions of the national minimum wage act 2011. Therefore, the need does not arise for any civil servant in Lagos State to partake in the three-day warning strike scheduled to start on Wednesday.”

The strike was called off by thevlabour leaders after negotiations with State governors and Federal Government spanning several hours over the implementation of the new Minimum Wage Act.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria agreed late last night to call off a three day national strike scheduled to begin today. This was contained in a communique issued late last night by the labour unions.

According to Labour, the strike was called off following acceptance by the Federal Government that it would commence the payment of the new national minimum wage for all categories of workers in its employ by August this year.

The Federal Government had on Monday said it would only implement the new national minimum wage for workers on grade 01 to 06 in the federal civil service.

“Federal Government shall conclude negotiations with Labour on the implementation of the minimum wage not later than 31st July, 2011.

“Detailed negotiations on the relativity implication of the implementation of the new National Minimum Wage Act 2011 will be concluded not later than 31st July, 2011.

“The new wages will be implemented from 1st August, 2011. The arrears of the new wages with effect from 23rd March, 2011 will be paid not later than 31st August, 2011.

“No worker shall be victimised in any manner or form as a consequence of the implementation of the new Minimum Wage Act.

“In line with the agreement earlier reached with the Federal Government and state governors, labour resolves to suspend the three-day warning strike across the country,” Labour said in the communique issued late last night.

The communiqué was signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Worgu; Head of Service, Prof. Oladapo Afolabi; NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar, and President of the TUC, Peter Esele.

Nigeria’s 36 state governors led by the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi had earlier, after over six hours meeting with the labour leaders agree to the modality for the payment of the minimum wage.

The governors, however, led the labour leaders to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF where the meeting continued for another four hours before the agreement was reached.

Emeka Worgu, the minister of Labour, said the Federal Government would honour the new agreement.

The state governors had earlier agreed to pay the new minimum wage last Saturday.

—Kazeem Ugbodaga, Eromosele Ehbomele & Oluokun Ayorinde/Abuja