NLC suspends strike as talks on minimum wage continue

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has shelved its planned strike to continue talks with the federal government on consequential adjustments to the new minimum wage.

The negotiation, which started on Tuesday, did not result in a resolution by the parties, but concessions were made for further talks on Wednesday.

The labour union is asking for a 29 percent increase for workers on salary grade level 07 to 14 and 24 percent for salary grade level 15 to 17.

But the government is proposing an 11 percent increase for grade level 07 to 14 and 6.5 percent for officers on grade level 15 to 17.

Speaking with journalists, Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, asked the union to consider the state of the economy in its demands.

“I serve as the conciliator so I am not on any side. I belong to the two parties. As you can see, there was no fight and no walkout. That shows that things are going on well. We will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) because of areas that we could not touch.

“I don’t want labour to misinform workers. They should not be misinformed. Workers should know that this is a consequential adjustment and not a holistic wage review. We must give the government the benefit of the doubt. I am for labour and I will not sit and watch them being cheated.

“I will also not sit and watch labour intimidate government. If you dangle a strike, it is intimidation and the International Labour Organisation Convention does not permit it. People should negotiate freely. If government threatens you in the course of negotiation, it is intimidation.

“I am your friend and friend of government. In fact, government feels I am not doing enough. That is why I am talking to you so that you can talk to your people. We cannot allow the government to shut down the economy because it wants to pay salaries and wages.

“The 2020 budget of N10.3tr has N3.8tr as personnel cost without overhead. If you add running cost and other incidental costs, the total recurrent budget as presented to the National Assembly has taken 76 per cent. Where do we get the money to build roads, airport, rails, health centres, schools etc.?”

Amaechi Asugwuni, deputy president of the NLC, said the meeting on Wednesday will be a decider of what will happen next.

“For us at labour, the matters are straightforward but negotiations are still going on. We thought the meeting would be concluded today but that prediction was not successful. Therefore, adjournment became necessary. The struggle will still continue,” Asugwuni said.

“We will meet again tomorrow (Wednesday) and that meeting will decide the fate of both parties. So far, commitments have been shown by both parties but we believe that the areas that are still in contest are critical and we urge government to see how it can shift ground positively. We expect that Wednesday’s meeting will end positively.”

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