FG, labour in emergency meeting as strike halts economic activities

As the nationwide strike by the Organised Labour over a new minimum wage for workers paralyse economic activities in Nigeria, the Federal Government has invited labour leaders to a meeting in Abuja, the country’s political capital.

The meeting, which is presently ongoing, has the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero; and his counterpart in the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Festus Osifo, in attendance.

On the government’s side is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume; Minister of Information, Mohammed Idris Malagi; Labour Minister Nkiruka Onyejeocha; among others.

Businesses, airports, universities, hospitals and power supply were affected as Labour began an indefinite strike on Monday over Labour’s demand for a new minimum wage.

Both NLC and TUC said the current minimum wage of ₦30,000 can no longer cater to the well-being of an average Nigerian worker, lamenting that not all governors are paying the current wage award which expired in April 2024, five years after the Minimum Wage Act of 2019 was signed by former President Muhammadu Buhari. The Act should be reviewed every five years to meet the contemporary economic demands of workers.

Labour later handed the Federal Government a May 31 deadline for the new minimum wage. On May 31, the workers’ organs in the country declared a nationwide strike beginning on Monday, June 3, 2024, over the government committee’s inability to agree on a new minimum wage and reversal of the electricity tariff hike.

During the failed talks with the government, Labour rejected three government offers, the latest being N60,000. The TUC and the NLC subsequently pulled out of negotiations, insisting on ₦494,000 as the new minimum wage.

Last-minute talks between labour leaders and the leadership of the National Assembly failed on Sunday night as the Organised Labour said there was no going back on the industrial action.

‘Not Affordable’

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, said the workers’ demands are not affordable.

The minister, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics programme said, “It is difficult because the worker deserves his wage, and given what is going on, they deserve a change and, by law, every five years, and maybe, we shouldn’t have to wait five years every time to set a new wage scale. The fact is that by law, it is a minimum wage.

“So, you are not setting a wage for Federal Government workers, for example. In a Federation, you are setting a minimum figure that states must pay, that local governments must pay, that the private sector must pay, that small businesses must pay.

“It is a fixed figure, not a scale. So, there are elements of how we have set the minimum wage in the past, particularly what we called the consequential adjustment, which, given what Labour is asking today, will be unaffordable across the board.

“We have to focus on the fact that once it is enshrined in law, everybody that falls into the category of having to pay the minimum wage must pay it. Therefore, the affordability has to be taken into account.

“We probably have to also take into account the fact that there are other ways of supporting the cost of living of workers other than wage scale.”