The organised Labour has expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the Federal Government to avert its planned nationwide strike.
The state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress said failure to implement the agreement before the October 30 deadline might leave them with no choice but to down tools, noting that they had commenced mobilisation of their members across the country.
Asked on Tuesday whether Labour was satisfied with the implementation of the MoU, the Head of Information and Public Affairs of the NLC, Benson Upah, said, “No, we are not. The government could do better and faster. We issued a statement a few days ago in which we expressed our displeasure with the Minister of Labour and Employment.”
The national leadership of the NLC and TUC had on October 1 reached an agreement with the Federal Government to pay N35,000 to all federal workers beginning from September pending when a new national minimum wage would be signed into law.
The resolution provided that the wage award would be paid to the federal workers for six months while states were encouraged to extend the same benefit to their workers.
The unions had threatened to declare a nationwide strike on October 3 but the move was suspended on the condition that the wage award, cash transfer, and some other resolutions must be implemented within 30 days effective from the day the MoU was signed.
The PUNCH reports that out of the 15 demands contained in the MoU, only a handful had been implemented by the government.
The Federal Government had ordered the payment of the N35,000 wage award and provision was being made for 55,000 Compressed Natural Gas conversion kits to kick-start the autogas conversion programme, while work had reportedly commenced on the construction of the state-of-the-art CNG stations nationwide, among others.
However, the Ogun State TUC Chairman, Akeem Lasisi, said that the union might be forced to declare an industrial action after the October 30 deadline if the federal and state governments failed to implement the terms of the resolutions agreed with the organised Labour.
The decision to go on strike, he explained, would depend on the outcome of the consultation meetings with other organs of the union as well as a review of the government’s efforts taken to fulfil its side of the bargain.
Speaking with our correspondent on Tuesday, the TUC chairman said “Implementation of most of the agreements lies on the table of the Federal Government. The only one that is critical for the state and local government is the payment of the wage award.
“In Ogun State, the government has announced the extension of the N10,000 financial award. The announcement is not a product of negotiation between organised labour and the government. It is the initiative of the government which we appreciate. The leadership will meet with the government to ensure the implementation of the N35,000 wage award.
“There is a process in declaring a trade dispute: We shall call the necessary organ meeting to review how far we have gone and at the same time consider the possibility of declaring a trade dispute after the October 30 deadline.”
Lasisi’s NLC counterpart, Hameed Ademola, simply noted that the union would comply with any directive from its national leadership if the government failed to implement the labour demands.
“This is purely a national issue and we shall follow any instruction given to the state council leadership,” he stated.
The Kano State chapter of the NLC said it would wait to see the implementation of the wage award by the Federal Government before knowing the right steps to take.
The state Chairman, Kabiru Inuwa, stated, “We shall wait to see if the Federal Government implements the wage award to its workers because we don’t want to say the action we will take until after we’re sure of what the Federal Government does.”
He said the union had written to the state government demanding the immediate implementation of the wage award to workers in the state, but the government had yet to respond.
“You know we have written to the state government requesting for the payment of the wage award to our members but the government is yet to respond. We are still waiting for the government to invite us or respond to our letter. But we will continue to wait until we see what the Federal Government does. So, we shall take the next line of action if the state government fails to implement the wage award to our members.’’
Speaking in the same vein, the Gombe State NLC General Secretary, Ibrahim Fika, said the chapter had presented four demands, adding that failure of the state government to implement them would result in an industrial action.
The demands, according to him, include biometric attendance, clearing of outstanding 2019 minimum wage for local government staff,palliatives and the N35,000 award across the board.
He said, “Failure to meet these demands, labour will declare industrial action in Gombe State because we have many issues in Gombe but these are our priority areas.”
Commenting on the delay in the implementation of the demands, the NLC and TUC leadership in Benue State pledged their readiness to comply with any directive from the national secretariat of their respective unions.
Speaking in separate telephone interviews, Terungwa Igbe and Gideon Akaa, the chairmen of NLC and TUC, respectively, said that they would adhere to any directive from their unions.
Igbe said that the state government had yet to respond to his letter demanding the implementation of the N35,000 wage award.
“We have not received any response from the state government after the joint letter we sent to it on the N35,000 wage award. Anytime the union calls for a strike, we have no option than to comply,” Igbe said.
The TUC leader noted, “Neither the N35,000 wage award nor palliatives has been responded to as far as I know. Meanwhile, we heard from the media that the state government promised to use part of the N2bn palliative to pay for external examinations of students. We believe that the children of workers will benefit from that.’’
Asked about the union’s next line of action in the event the government fails to fulfil the agreement, Akaa said, “Whatever our mother union directs is what we are going to carry out.”
However, the unions in Sokoto State revealed they would soon resume talks with the state government on the implementation of the MoU reached with the Federal Government.
“We are hoping to have a meeting this week on some of those issues raised in our letter. All the issues are already with the governor. Talking about the resumption of the strike, we will definitely wait for the directive of the national headquarters on when to commence strike even if all our demands are not met at the state level,’’ Hamisu Hussain, the TUC secretary, disclosed.
Checks indicated that the Kwara State government had yet to pay the N35,000 award to the workers in the state.
The TUC Chairman in the state, Tunde Joseph, confirmed on Tuesday that the government had not responded to the request letter sent to it.
“We wrote a letter to Governor Mallam AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq on the awards for workers on October 4 and we submitted a reminder last week, but the government is yet to respond to any of the two letters. We are still waiting for the government to give a reply to our request on the awards,’’ Joseph stated, noting that the decision to go on strike if the authorities refused to implement the agreement would be taken by the national leadership of the union.
The state NLC Chairman, Saheed Olayinka, also explained that the state government had yet to reach out to the organised labour.
“Although, they are yet to invite us for a meeting, whatever action that we would take would depend on their decision at the national level,’’ he pointed out.
The Bauchi State Chairman of the NLC, Dauda Shuaibu, bemoaned the delay in the implementation of the MoU, adding that the workers in the state would have no choice but to join any strike declared by the leadership.
“The state government has not fulfilled any of the agreements.You know that there are demands that are general and there are those that are specific; specific in the sense that the state councils should start discussing the issue of salary (increase).
“We wrote a letter to the state government but they didn’t call us. We wrote a reminder and they still didn’t call us, they didn’t do anything,” he lamented.
Asked if they would still stick to the October 30 deadline, he said: “You know that the strike is a nationwide strike, so if after the expiration of the ultimatum, they give a directive on the strike, we will join. We will stick to the October 30th deadline while awaiting the directives of the national secretariat; whatever they direct, we will do.”
Meanwhile, the NLC spokesman, Upah, has said that the setting up of a minimum wage committee is not an issue yet because the implementation of the new minimum wage was not due until 2024.
“The minimum wage is not due statutorily until next year. Constituting a committee for a new one, therefore, cannot be an issue yet,’’ he noted.
Following the removal of the subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, the NLC President, Joe Ajaero announced that the minimum wage may be negotiated to N100,000 or N200,000.