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For third time in three months, trade unions threaten strike over minimum wage stalemate

FOR the third time in roughly three months, trade unions in Nigeria have threatened to down tools over the government’s protracted delay in implementing the new national minimum wage of N30,000.

The new wage was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in April following recommendations from a tripartite committee set up by the federal government.

In a statement released on Tuesday by the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), the unions said they would not give further notice before millions of their members across the country “commence strike over the non-implementation of the new national minimum wage and appropriate consequential adjustment”.

The TUS comprises eight public service trade unions present in all states in the country, including the Federal Capital Territory.

A meeting of the joint council that held in Abuja on Monday had ended in a deadlock as the unions accused government of not being “serious at all [and] … taking us for a ride”.

In the statement signed by the JNPSNC Acting Chairman, Anchaver Solomon and Secretary, Alade Bashir Lawal, the unions accused the government of frustrating the new wage’s implementation process and said all attempts to persuade government officials have been unsuccessful.

They said it was clear the government was not committed to paying the new minimum wage and adequate consequential adjustment.

“The Consequential Adjustment Committee two weeks ago agreed that the proposal of the TUS that salary of officers on grade levels 07-14 should be increased by 29% and those of officers on grade levels 15-17 by 24% vis-a-vis that of Government Side of 10% for officers on Grade levels 07-14, 5.5% for those on Grade Level 15-17 should be forwarded to President Buhari to see the patriotic position of labour and approved appropriate consequential adjustment accordingly,” the statement said.

“When the meeting reconvened on Monday 16th September, 2019 to get a feedback on the expected approval from Mr. President, the Government Officials brought a fresh proposal of 11% pay rise for officers on Grade Levels 07-14 instead of its earlier position of 10% and 6.5% for those on grade levels 15-17 instead of the former 5.5%.”

Third threat in a few months

It is not the first time the trade unions have threatened to go on strike over perceived unseriousness from the government on the issue.

On July 2, the same threat was made in a statement signed by Solomon, which said the government has been “coming up with one strange proposal or the other, all with the intent of scuttling the implementation of the new national minimum wage”.

“Labour may have to embark on industrial action if the current state of affairs as regards the issue of consequential adjustment arising from the new national minimum wage of N30,000.00 per month remains the same,” Solomon declared.

Again on July 17, the TLS said its members should be prepared to go on strike as the government had “introduced a strange clause to the discussion”.

“All efforts by the trade union side to persuade the government side to return to the right track of negotiation and agree on a realistic percentage increase proved abortive,” the council’s acting chairman noted in a communique released to journalists.

The ICIR could not get a statement from Benson Upah, head of information of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), as he explained that he was at a meeting.

Data reveals new wage changes little

Based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics analysed by The ICIR, the new minimum wage of N30,000 changes nothing in the standard of living of the average Nigerian.

NBS’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Inflation Reports show that the CPI in August 2015 was 175.4 while that of August 2019 in 295.5.

We evaluated the statistics using the newly approved minimum wage and found that workers who earned N18,000 in 2015 and now earn N30,000 have still lost 1 per cent of their purchasing power.

In other words, the new wage can only buy about the same amount of items which N18,000 could buy four years back. This is as a result of an increase in the prices of commodities as well as other economic activities.

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