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Labour warns FG over delayed MOU, threatens strike

The organized labor in Nigeria has expressed their dissatisfaction with the slow pace of implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed with the Federal Government. This was done to avert a nationwide strike that was planned. The state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) stated that their members would be left with no choice but to down tools if the agreement is not implemented before the October 30 deadline. They have commenced mobilizing their members across the country.

When asked on Tuesday, the Head of Information and Public Affairs of the NLC, Benson Upah, stated that they were not satisfied with the implementation of the MoU. He said that the government could do better and faster. The unions had issued a statement a few days ago expressing their displeasure with the Minister of Labour and Employment.

The national leadership of the NLC and TUC had reached an agreement with the Federal Government on October 1, which provided that N35,000 would be paid to all federal workers starting from September, pending when a new national minimum wage would be signed into law. The unions had threatened to declare a nationwide strike on October 3 but suspended the move on the condition that the wage award, cash transfer, and some other resolutions must be implemented within 30 days from the day the MoU was signed.

Out of the 15 demands contained in the MoU, only a handful have 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 (CNG) conversion kits to kick-start the autogas conversion programme. Work had reportedly commenced on the construction of 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 organized labor. He explained that the decision to go on strike 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 fulfill 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 organized labor 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 labor 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.”

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Written by Olusesan Oba

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