Minimum wage: We won’t accept starvation wage, NLC president tells Akpabio, Abbas

Akpabio Abbas In Last Minute Talks With Labour 1

Ahead of today’s commencement of industrial action by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly held a closed door meeting with the leaders of Organised Labour on Sunday.

The troubleshooting meeting at the instance of Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas had in attendance NLC Chairman, Joe Ajaero, and his TUC counterpart, Fetus Osifo.

Secretary to Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume led the Federal Government delegation.

The Organised Labour is demanding a new national minimum wage and reversal of the recent hike in electricity tariffs. Recent meetings with the FG team ended in a deadlock.

Senator Akpabio told the leadership of the NLC and TUC that the Parliament was neither holding brief for the Executive arm of government nor usurping its functions but trying to find a solution to the faceoff between it and organised Labour.

The president of the Senate noted that every Nigerian will be at the receiving end of the indefinite strike called by Labour.

He said:’  “I do know that Mr President had set up a very serious committee to negotiate with Labour.  The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of Service who are here with us have been deeply involved in the negotiations.

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“So the leadership of both Chambers decided to invite everybody here so we can listen to all parties. We are not taking over the work of the executive. We are not taking over the work of the NLC and TUC but we just said we should hear from you.

“It is very difficult to negotiate for peace in an atmosphere of crisis. If you are on strike, it means you are no longer negotiating. And the Nigerian people are desirous in having a closure to the issue of the minimum wage.

“And the government too is very eager to meet the yearnings of the people to a reasonable extent based on the current economic realities. Hence there was need for us to call all parties to the table and to hear from you.

“As the People’s Parliament, we are also on the side of the people. Above all, we are also workers. So what affects you affects us and what affects us also affects you. I welcome you that you honored this invitation of the 10th National Assembly at very short notice.”

Speaker Abbas in the same vein said the National Assembly is on the side of the people and the Labour Unions.  “We are on the side of Labour and we are on the side of the people. That is why we call ourselves the People’s Parliament. Whatever affects the common man affects us too.

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I have said that how this country can eliminate corruption in the long run is to embrace a living wage, there are no two ways about it.  But we should also be mindful that the mistakes of several decades cannot be repaired in one day.

“It is going to be a gradual process. We have to start somewhere and then agree to a plan of what we can do to reach that level where every Nigerian worker can beat his chest and say I am earning enough to put food on the table, enough to take care of the basics.’

While thanking the National Assembly for its intervention, president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Comrade Joe Ajaero maintained that  Nigerian workers deserved a living wage.

He said: “What we are negotiating for is for all Nigerians, which include your brothers and your sisters and your constituents. That is why we must all reason together to find the solution to it. It is not for the leadership of the labour unions. It is for all Nigerians.

“We are quite committed to finding a way forward, finding a living wage, finding a survival wage and not starvation wage for Nigerians.  My colleagues and I are committed to this.”

The meeting was ongoing as at press time.

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