The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Sunday gave a four-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to accept its demand for the consequential adjustment of salaries, based on the new minimum wage, or risk a nation-wide strike.
The ultimatum ends Wednesday, the umbrella union said in a letter to the Federal Government by its General-Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, urging the state councils to prepare for dispute.
But, to douse the brewing tension and avert the strike, Labour and Employment Minister Senator Chris Ngige has called for a meeting between NLC and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC) tomorrow.
The minister said: “NLC and TUC leadership know the rule and what the ILO statutes say on such situation. So, we will continue our effort on Tuesday.”
Also, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, appealed to workers to shelve the proposed strike.
Warning that the strike may amount to an exercise in futility, he cautioned workers against uncritically confusing minimum wage increment with general wage review.
Fayemi, who shed light on the scope of the new minimum wage, urged workers to take into consideration the country’s economic situation before embarking on industrial action.
He told reporters in Lagos that increase in minimum wage does not translate into a general wage review.
After the first phase of negotiations collapsed due to percentage differences between the two parties, the Federal Government’s negotiating team and the JNPNC, which is representing labour unions, are expected to meet again tomorrow.
Labour is demanding 29 per cent salary increase for officers on salary level 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade level 15 to 17 as against the Federal Government’s offer of 11 per cent for officers on grade level 07 to 14 and 6.5 per cent for workers of grade level 15 to 17.
The NLC letter to the state chapters reads: “You will recall that a joint communiqué was issued by the leadership of the NLC, Trade Union Congress and the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council stating that after two weeks from the date of the said communiqué, industrial harmony could not be guaranteed in the country, should an agreement not be reached with the Federal Government on the consequential adjustment of salaries as a result of the new minimum wage of N30, 000.
“You are hereby directed to coordinate preparations with TUC and JPSNC in your state for necessary industrial action should the time expire without an agreement as contained in the communiqué.”
Organised labour also faulted comments by Ngige that they misinterpreted minimum wage to mean general salary review.
The Secretary-General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Alade Lawal, described the minister’s comment as a political gimmicks meant to distract the union ahead of the expiration of the ultimatum.