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Monday, July 15, 2024

Nigerian government urges NLC and TUC to stop strike and continue negotiations

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The federal government has asked the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to return to the negotiating table following the start of an indefinite strike by the unions.

Minister of Information and National Guidance Mohammed Idris made the call in a statement on Monday.

The NLC and the TUC went on an indefinite strike on Monday to protest the federal government’s refusal to accede to their demand for a minimum wage of N494,000.

Idris said the tripartite committee that has been meeting on the matter is willing to set a realistic minimum wage for Nigerian workers.

“We will continue to participate and be available for these negotiations on behalf of the Nigerian people,” Idris said.

The minister said the government is seeking a balanced and workable solution, insisting that the proposed minimum wage of N494,000 is not workable.

Idris urged unions to reconsider their demands, stating that any agreed minimum wage would also affect the private sector and could have detrimental effects on the economy.

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Position of the unions

Meanwhile, the NLC and the TUC, in a joint statement on Monday, explained that the strike was launched due to protracted and unresolved negotiations with the federal government over a new national minimum wage and the recent increase in electricity tariffs.

They said that “the current minimum wage, by law, expired on April 19, 2024, requiring an urgent review.”

They said the recent electricity rate increase is an unsustainable burden on businesses and workers.

Unions said the national strike underlines the urgency of addressing their demands for a fair and living wage.

They criticized the government’s counter offer of N60,000, insisting that it is inadequate and insensitive to the economic hardships faced by workers due to policies such as the removal of petrol subsidy, devaluation of the naira and increase in electricity tariffs.

“The government’s counteroffer makes a mockery of the unbearable hardship its callous and oppressive economic policies cause workers,” the statement said.

Unions also accused the government of showing contempt for the bargaining process by withdrawing their key negotiating representatives.

Background

Unions said the call for a new national minimum wage aligns with best practices and international legal standards.

The conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), in particular Convention 26 on Minimum Wage Fixing Mechanisms of 1928 and Convention 131 on Minimum Wage Fixing, require member countries to guarantee a minimum wage that guarantees a decent wage for all workers. Nigeria ratified these conventions and the national minimum wage has been a legal requirement since 1961.

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In 1981, Nigeria’s first minimum wage was set at 125 naira (approximately $188 at the time), equivalent to 282,000 naira at current exchange rates. However, the real value of wages has decreased, pushing many workers into poverty.

In his statement on Monday, Idris said President Bola Tinubu is ready to address Nigeria’s economic challenges through policies with a human face.

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