Labour writes SGF, insists on nationwide strike from October 17

• Says we have been pushed to the wall ― Labour

The Organized Labour has written to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, insisting that the nation’s workforce will be embarking on a nationwide strike from October 17, over the stalled negotiations of consequential adjustment of salaries arising from the new national minimum wage.

As Tribune Online obtained the letter, the Secretary of the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), Comrade Alade Bashir Lawal, who is also the Secretary-General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), pointed out that from October 17, the leadership of labour will give directive to members nationwide on the strike.

The leadership of Labour said they have been pushed to the wall in respect to the stalled negotiations and therefore, warned the Federal Government that it has concluded all arrangement to begin industrial action if concrete steps are not taken to address the issue at stake on their demand.

The letter was signed by the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Quadri Olaleye, the General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, the Secretary-General of TUC, Comrade Musa Lawal, the Acting Chairman, JNPSNC, Comrade Simon Anchaver and the Secretary JNPSNC, Comrade Alade Bashir Lawal.

To underscore the importance of the planned action, the copy of the letter was also sent to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of House of Representatives, the Minister of Labour and Employment, the Head of Service of the Federation, the Inspector General Nigeria Police Force and the Director-General Department of State Security.

The letter read: “The leadership of NLC, TUC and the JNPSNC (Trade Union Side) feels highly constrained to inform you that labour has been pushed to the wall in respect of the stalled negotiations of the consequential adjustment arising from the new national minimum wage of N30,000 per month and has, therefore, concluded arrangement to embark on industrial action to press home it’s demand if concrete steps are not taken to address the issue at stake.”

The Labour leaders explained what they had done and how considerate Labour has been to shift ground to enable the negotiation succeeded but regretted that the government negotiating team has been hidden the facts from the government and especially from President Muhammadu Buhari.

The letter stated further: “At the last count, Labour moderated its initial position of having 66.6% upward salary adjustment for workers on salary grade level 07 – 17 by accepting an upward adjustment of 29% for officers on salary level 07 – 14, while officers on salary grade level 15 – 17 would have theirs adjusted by 24%.

” The government side on its part insisted that officers on salary grade level 07 – 14 cannot have more than 10% salary increase, while officers on grade level 15 – 17 would have theirs adjusted by 5.5%.”

However, Labour pointed out that at another meeting held on August 12, the two sides agreed that government side should take the position of Labour and that of the official side to President Buhari, “with a view to allow him appreciate the patriotic position of Labour and then intervene positively towards ensuring the achievement of an acceptable and just salary adjustment for workers in the public service.”

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However, the Labour leaders regretted that, “when the meeting reconvened, it was discovered that the mandate given to the official side to transmit the positions of the two sides to Mr President, was not carried out.”

Instead, Labour added that the government negotiating team “offered a marginal adjustment of 1% to what it was earlier offering. Officers on grade 07 – 14 were offered 11% increase, while those on grade level 15 – 17 were to get 6.5% upward salary adjustment.”

Labour said it rejected that position outrightly and left the meeting with the promise of briefing their leadership and take necessary trade union actions to achieve the desired objective.

The letter added: “We wish to categorically state that the leadership of Labour cannot guarantee industrial peace and harmony in the country if our demands are not met at the close of work on Wednesday, 16 October 2019. While looking forward to your urgent positive intervention on this matter, please accept the assurances of our highest considerations and regards.”

Meanwhile, Labour had already began high-level mobilisation of workers across the state on Wednesday as the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), invited all its unit chairmen, Secretaries and Treasurers in the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs), to an emergency meeting in Abuja to commence what it termed “serious mobilization.”

The ASCSN has also sent a circular titled: “Mobilization for nation-wide strike,” to all its states secretaries, directing them to “liaise with the Joint Council, the TUC, and the NLC officials on your state of coverage to start serious mobilisation to ensure that the strike is successful,” if the government eventually allowed it to commence.

The Secretary-General of ASCSN, Comrade Alade Bashir Lawal, who is also the Secretary JNPSNC (Trade Union Side), addressed the union officers and said that the mobilisation was imperative and have commenced to ensure a successful strike.

Comrade Lawal said: “The essence (of the meeting) is to mobilise our members towards the looming strike if the government does not accede to the demand of labour in respect of the consequential adjustment of salaries arising from the new national minimum wage.

“If you go through our communique issued last week by TUC, NLC and the Joint Public Negotiation Council, we are asking government to reconvene the meeting of the committee and within one week let the committee conclude the assignment.”

On meeting with labour minister expected to hold on Wednesday, he said the meeting as far as they are concerned is a kind of informal meeting.

“As labour, we are not averse to discussions, consultations or anything but the main meeting of the committee, they are yet to reconvene it.” He said.

He added: “A minister is free to call us and we will go. We are hoping that maybe he wants to use the opportunity to talk to the two sides before reconvening the meeting. But what I am saying is that this one is an informal meeting and you cannot sign any agreement in such a meeting without the committee handling the negotiation of the consequential adjustment.

On the 16 deadline, he said: “anything from 17 the leadership of labour will give directive to members nationwide on what to do.”

Comrade Lawal said: “The measure of seriousness can only be seen if something concrete is done between now and the 16. We are not part of government, we don’t know what they are doing. We can’t preempt them. We will see what happens between now and 16. After the 16, if nothing is done we can start rationalising.”

On the government claim that they have started the partial implementation of the new minimum wage, the ASCSN scribe said: “What are they implementing, you are negotiating something and somebody went behind the scene to issue one circular. As far as we are concerned in labour, nothing has been done. How many people are in levels 1-3? When you look at the circular that was issued, it is full of errors. So, as far as we are concerned, no circular is issued.”

On the issue of the private sector who are already implementing the new minimum wage, he said, “the strike is going to affect both public and private sector. In labour parlance, injury to one is injury to all. So whether you have implemented or not you go on sympathy strike.”

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