By John Okoh
The Nigeria Labour Congress has suspended its planned nationwide strike after it reached an agreement with the Tripartite Committee during a meeting that lasted into the night yesterday. It said it was shelving the strike over a new minimum wage for now. The strike was scheduled to start on Tuesday.
The suspension came on the heels of combined efforts of stakeholders comprising labour leaders, government representatives and organised private sector on Monday to reach a consensus on a minimum wage.
The Tripartite committee will submit its report to Buhari later Tuesday.
Announcing the suspension, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, NLC Chairman said the decision to suspend the strike came on after an agreed document on the thorny issues had been signed by the parties .
He said: “Having reached this position and agreements signed, the proposed strike action is hereby suspended,”
President Buhari had begged labour to back down on their planed strike for Tuesday just as the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja on Monday rejected a request for a fresh order to stop the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, from going ahead with the indefinite strike.
All the affiliates of the organization, including the largest and strong Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW and petroleum workers, NUPENG, Food and Beverages and Bankers Unions are involved. Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU had already kicked theirs on Monday.
Justice Kado said it would be an abuse of court processes to grant two orders on the same matter. In the same vien, the judge rejected labour’s demand to compel government to pay its new demand of N30,000. The court had granted the Federal Government’s request on Friday to stop NLC, the Trade Union Congress and the United Labour Congress from going on with the strike over the disagreement on the new minimum wage. Labour is asking for N30,000, while the Federal Government is proposing N24.000 for its staff and the state governments through the Governor s Forum has promise to pay N22,500
President Buhari had appeal the organized labour to shelve the strike on grounds of patriotism. He said his administration is still struggling to fix the sorry state of the economy he it inherited from previous administrations and begged them to be considerate.
In a statement by his Media Adviser, Femi Adesina
“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 “.
”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.”
He made the appeal during the visit to Aso Villa by members of the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria led by Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora who came to plead for privileges like restoration of diplomatic passports and increased pension to retired diplomats
The appeal came after the Secretary to government, Boss Mustapha had made a last but failed efforts to stop the workers whose leaders he met in his office earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Lagos State Branch of the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers, Tajudeen Agbede, announced on Monday that the union would join the planned NLC strike if government and labour failed to resolve their differences.
“We are an affiliate of the NLC, we shall obey its directives. So, we have no choice than to join the strike anytime we’re called upon to do so,” Agbede told the transport correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
Public sector workers in Nigeria are among the least paid in the world, although political office holders in the country, including members of the country’s bicameral parliament, earn some of the biggest wages in the world.
Also speaking on the strike, the District Manager of the Nigeria Railways Corporation, Mr. Jerry Oche, said that the company would not operate if the proposed strike got underway.
“We are not going to operate if there is strike. But if there is no strike we will operate but we wish the situation is resolved before tomorrow,” Oche said.
Mr Fola Tinubu, Managing Director of Primero Transport Services Ltd., said that the company’s buses would operate strike or no strike.
“Yes, we are operating tomorrow,” Tinubu said.
Suleiman Jafo, Chairman of the Nagari Nakowa Motorcycle Owners and Riders Association, told NAN that members of the body would operate, provided movement was not restricted.
“We are not salary earners. We eat from our daily operations,” Jafo said.
A tricycle operator, Mr Jude Eze, said that although tricycle operators were in solidarity with labour over the minimum wage, they would have no choice than to operate, unless movement was disrupted.
On his part, Mr Role Odukale, Chairman of the Red Bus Rapid Transit and Chief Operating Officer of Ise Oluwa Transport Company, said that his company’s bus drivers had been told not to operate if there was strike.
“The drivers said they are not going to work as directed by their union.
“We are just their employer, they belong to a union and we cannot work against their union,” Odukale said.