Nationwide Strike: FG, Labour in ‘make or mar’ meeting Tuesday

• We won't tolerate anything short of reasonable adjustment ― Labour; Bring down your demand ― Ngige

The Organised Labour declared after a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige on Monday that Labour will not tolerate anything short of “reasonable adjustment” in the ongoing negotiation.

This is just as if it became clear that the “make or mar” meeting between Labour and the Federal Government, under the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), comprising both the Trade Union side and the Government side, on Tuesday, would determine if the strike would go ahead or not.

The Deputy President of Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), Comrade Amaechi Asugwuni, who spoke after the meeting, however, warned that labour is prepared to take any step in driving their demand home.

He pointed out that labour had put across its demand to the government but now depends on the government to see sense in their demand; warning that Labour has shifted beyond expectation.

He emphasized that Tuesday’s meeting would be the benchmark for labour action but he warned further that mobilization of their members and workers across the country continues.

He insisted that the meeting for Tuesday “will tell us the way forward,” because anything can happen.

The NLC Deputy President said: “The meeting was a consultative one. The meeting took into consideration the essential issues about the minimum wage that is still pending.

“With the consultation, we were able to share information with the Minister of Labour and Employment in order to
ensure the success of tomorrow (Tuesday) meeting.

“We believe that the Federal Government will do the needful because ours is a straight forward proposal. We have made our proposal to the FG before now and government is to respond. We believe that by tomorrow, we will get the Federal Government feedback and know the next thing to do.

“The impact of today’s meeting on the one we will hold on Tuesday is that it afforded us the opportunity to submit all the fact that the Federal Government needs. Labour will not tolerate anything short of reasonable adjustment in the ongoing negotiation.

“The FG will also meet after this meeting ahead of Tuesday’s meeting which will give birth to what will happen on Tuesday. But labour is prepared to take any step in driving our demand home.

“The consequential adjustment is a matter of percentage which requires give and take principle. You state what you want but it depends on government to see sense in your demand. Labour has shifted beyond expectation. What government needs to do is to reciprocate by doing what is needful to appreciate the workers.

“We are talking about compensation, salary and legitimate compensation for work done. In as much as we believe in the consequential adjustment, it has to be reasonable. Otherwise, people will feel neglected.

“Tuesday’s meeting is the benchmark for labour action but mobilization continues. The meeting will tell us the way forward because anything can happen.”

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The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said the meeting is an information-sharing one to soften the ground for Tuesday meeting.

He appealed to Labour to be open in their discussion so as both parties can have a way out of the minimum wage logjam.

Ngige expressed the belief that the Tuesday meeting would bring an end to the issues if both parties show understanding.

He said: “This is the continuation of the meeting we held on Wednesday last week and the meeting was fruitful, and I think if we continue in that spirit, we would be able to fix the turn for tomorrow (Tuesday) meeting.

“This is actually an information-sharing meeting so that we can be able to arrive at our destination together. Information is power, you know lack of information can lead to war because there is no information or the information is incorrect.

“We want to use this meeting to smoothen some rough edges then in the afternoon I will also meet with the Government side negotiating team and also smoothen rough edges from their own side.

“Like I kept on saying that I’m conciliating this meeting, I am neither for government or for Labour, I am for everybody because I’m for all Nigerians. The workers are Nigerians and even the ones on government side too are Nigerians. If anything, those on the government side are workers too so we are preponderance of workers in this ministry. So, I hope that our meeting would be fruitful.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday) meeting can be one, two or twelve hours depending on what we are able to achieve, so I appeal to everyone to show some understanding, we are going to discuss dispassionately, nothing would be hiding from anybody.

“The books of government, I have talked about it before. When I mean books it means the budget, 2019 to 2020. When do they utilize the 2019 income and expenditures. When I met the government side I advised them to prepare to present their case meaningful if they come. I will stay in the middle as an arbiter do.”

However, Tribune Online learnt that at the meeting with the minister, he appealed to them to come down from their demand so that he would have something new to present and take to the government.

After long appeal, the Labour side was said to have come down to 27% for workers on grade level 7-14 from the earlier 29%; while they adjusted up those on grade level 15-17 to 25%.

The government side was however expected to bring an improved proposal to Tuesday meeting for the strike to be stopped.

Following the meeting with Labour leaders which started by 12noon and ended at 2.45pm, the Minister also sat in conciliation with the Government side of the Council between 3 pm to 6 pm.

The government side was said to be satisfied with the briefings they received from the Minister and promised to get back to their constituencies for further inputs.

However, representing the Organised  Labour at their meeting with the minister were the Deputy President of  the NLC, Comrade Amaechi Asugwuni, the General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, the Secretary-General of TUC, Comrade Musa Lawal Ozigi, the Deputy Secretary-General of TUC, Comrade Nuhu Toro, The Secretary of JNPSNC and Secretary-General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Comrade Lawal Alade Bashir as well as Comrade Musa Abbas of ASCSN.

In attendance  at the meeting with the Joint National Public Service  Negotiating Council, Government side were the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Labour and Employment, William Alo, Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, Acting Chairman of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta,  a Director from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,  Garba Mamman, Olufehinti O.J from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, B.O.C Omogo of the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and Bar. Akpan, Director of Trade Union Services in the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Also in attendance was the Minister of State for Budget and Planning, Clem Agba.

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