Labour suspends strike, tripartite panel submits report to Buhari today

By Editor on 06/11/2018

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The labour leaders
The labour leaders

•Tripartite panel submits report to Buhari today
•New minimum wage to be unveiled on Tuesday
•Partial compliance in varsities as ASUU begins strike

Organised labour has called off the nationwide industrial action scheduled to commence on Tuesday (today) to press home workers’ demand for a new national minimum wage.

The National Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, announced the suspension at the end of the 10pm meeting of the tripartite committee set up to come up with the new minimum wage on Monday.

Wabba said the decision to suspend the action was reached after agreements were reached and documents signed.

“Having reached this position and agreements signed, the proposed strike action is hereby suspended,” the labour leader said.

Wabba, however, refused to disclose the figure of the new minimum wage arrived at by the committee.

He said the figure would only be made public after the committee’s report would have been presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by 4.15pm on Tuesday.

He, however, said only one figure would be presented to the President.

The Chairman of the committee, Amma Pepple, expressed delight that their assignment had been concluded.

“I am happy to report to you that we have concluded our assignment and we will submit our report to the President by 4.15pm on Tuesday.

“We will reveal the figure at the presentation,” she said.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, thanked members of the committee for doing a wonderful job.

He described the process as a long journey.

“The committee has worked assiduously to reach the conclusion,” he said.

 

Earlier, the tripartite committee set up by the Federal Government to come up with a new national minimum wage for the country concluded its assignment on Monday.

The committee chaired by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Amma Pepple, had recommended two figures, N24,000 and N30,000, for minimum wage.

Pepple disclosed this to journalists at the end of the committee’s marathon meeting held to beat the indefinite strike action declared by labour unions and scheduled to start on Tuesday.

In the process of negotiation, state governors said they could only pay N22,500; the Federal Government proposed N24,000 while the labour and organised private sector settled for N30,000.

The labour and the Federal Government did not shift ground at the Monday meeting.

Pepple said the committee would present the two figures to the executive arm of government which will take a final decision after due consultation.

She said the final decision would thereafter be sent to the National Assembly.

“We have concluded but we have a little challenge about Chapter 5 of our report. That is the section where we report the negotiation and the figures we used for negotiation and the figure that we concluded on.

“The committee came up with two figures. The Federal Government suggested N24,000 and labour, as well as the organised private sector, gave a figure of N30,000.

“There is no stalemate. We have finished and we have signed the report but what we are insisting on is that the strike should be called off. We are waiting for the President to give us a date to submit the report. The report will go through a process. It will go through the Federal Government as well as the National Assembly.”

On the industrial action scheduled to commence on Tuesday, Pepple said, “We have pleaded with them (labour leaders) to call off the strike and they have said they are going to consult. So we are likely to come back. We shall be reconvening at 10pm.”

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, also told reporters that the government was making progress.

He insisted that the N24,000 figure of the Federal Government was based on ability to pay and sustainability, stressing that the state governors who proposed N22,500 would have no choice but to adopt the Federal Government’s figure.

The minister said, “We are making progress. The governors’ figure should be the figure of the Federal Government. We are just trying to carry them along; otherwise, the Federal Government speaks for the government.

“The figures are standing but you know that there are other processes. It will get to the National Economic Council, Council of State and then an Executive Bill will be sent to the National Assembly.

“The Federal Government figure of N24,000 is noted and it is also weighty because it is based on ability to pay and sustainability.

He added, “The labour is satisfied. We have done the needful and we have crossed the Rubicon. The only aspect we need to do now is to fix an appointment to present the report to the President.

“We are reconvening tonight because that appointment has to be made. Mr President has gone home; he is not just sitting idle. We have sent message to the place and we are making necessary contacts. If we get the appointment now, we will reconvene and decide what to do.

“The state governors have no choice now because they have attached themselves to us as the supreme sovereign, they are the minor sovereign.”

Representatives of the labour union that attended the meeting have yet to speak with journalists as of the time of filing this report.

While some of them left and insisted that they would not talk until after the meeting slated for 10pm, some others remained at the venue of the meeting.

The Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, who represented governors on the committee also did not talk to journalists before leaving the venue.

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed; and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, also refused to talk to journalists.

The two ministers left the venue earlier than others.

While the reconvened 10pm meeting of the tripartite committee was still ongoing, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, on Monday night ordered all workers to ensure they resume at their duty posts on Tuesday.

She said the order became necessary because the National Industrial Court had restrained the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress from embarking on strike from Tuesday as scheduled.

The order was contained in a circular titled ‘Notice of court injunction on proposed strike action: Directive for compliance’ and dated November 5, 2018.

The circular was signed on behalf of the HOCSF by the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare Office, Mrs Didi Walson-Jack.

She asked all Permanent Secretaries to ensure strict compliance with her directive.

The circular read, “The attention of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has been drawn to the order of interim injunction by the Abuja Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria dated November 2, 2018 restraining the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and their members from embarking on or taking part in the strike or industrial action to commence on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

“In view of the above, I am directed to inform you that all staff are expected to continue to report at their duty posts to carry out their duties pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

“All Permanent Secretaries and Heads of extra-Ministerial Departments and Agencies are to bring the content of this circular to the attention of their staff and ensure strict compliance.”

Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday appealed to the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress to consider the rot, he claimed, his administration inherited and call off its planned strike.

Buhari made the appeal at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, when he received members of the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria led by Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora.

The appeal came barely 24 hours to the commencement of the indefinite industrial action called by labour unions to press for a new national minimum wage.

Buhari said the workers needed to show more understanding.

“President Buhari also appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress to consider what this government inherited and the more it is doing with fewer resources in putting the economy right,” a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, read.

Buhari assured Nigerians that his administration would sustain investments to upgrade and develop the country’s transport and power infrastructure.

He said, ‘’There is no part of the country I haven’t been to, having attempted to be President four times. I know the condition of our roads. The rails were literally killed; there was no power despite the admittance of some previous leadership that they spent $16bn on the sector.

“Today, we are getting our priorities right and we believe that of the three fundamental issues we campaigned on, security, the economy and fighting corruption, we have remained very relevant and Nigerians believe we have achieved something.”

Buhari’s appeal came just as the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja, also on Monday, rejected a request for a fresh order to stop the organised labour from embarking on its planned strike scheduled to commence on Tuesday (today).

The court presided over by Justice Sanusi Kado also refused to grant a prayer for an order to compel the government to immediately commence the process of adopting N30,000 as the new national minimum wage.

Justice Kado said it would be unnecessary to make another order stopping labour from embarking on the planned strike having earlier made a similar one in a case brought to the court by the Federal Government on Friday. --Punch

Posted 06/11/2018 07:39:48 AM

 

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