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Despite Court Injunction, Labour Insists Strike Goes On Tomorrow

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had approached the court on Friday and asked it to stop the strike, pending the determination of the substantive suit the federal government had filed.

The court obliged him with a restraining order, putting the strike on hold.

But organised labour said having not been served with any court process, it was unaware of the court ruling, therefore, the tomorrow’s strike shall proceed as planned.

Labour also denied knowledge of a meeting held at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and attended by the SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.

As the federal government made last minute efforts to stave off the strike, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) announced the resumption of its strike suspended months ago, accusing government of not keeping to its promise of acceding to its demands. The strike is indefinite.

Workers under the aegis of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) had threatened to go on national strike to compel the government and the private sector employers to pay N30,000 as new minimum wage.

Whereas the federal government has offered to pay N24,000 and state governments, N22,500, labour has insisted that it is either N30,000 or no deal.

Following the deadlock, the federal government approached the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Abuja and obtained an order restraining the organised labour from proceeding with the nationwide strike.

Delivering ruling in an ex-parte application by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Justice Kado Sanusi restrained the NLC and the TUC from engaging in the proposed strike pending the determination of the substantive suit filed by the federal government and the AGF.

Justice Sanusi also restrained the NLC, TUC and the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum listed as the first to the third defendants from taking steps capable of destroying the subject of the dispute.

However, the labour unions said they were not aware of any court order stopping the strike.

While giving update on the planned strike, the General Secretary of the NLC, Mr. Peter Essom, said tomorrow’s national strike would go ahead as planned.

Essom who spoke to THISDAY on telephone yesterday evening, said labour had not been served with any court proceeding.

He said, “The conditions we have given is clear, pay the N30,000 agreed by the tripartite committee on minimum wage. “The government should act on it; that is the only thing we know about. We don’t know anything about court; strike is going on as planned on Tuesday. We are not aware of any other development.”

Also the NLC scribe said that labour was not part of the meeting convened yesterday by the SGF and would not be bound by its decision.

“We are not aware of any meeting at the SGF and we are not part of it,” he added.

Meanwhile, labour and all its affiliate unions yesterday sent out messages sensitising its members and Nigerians on the rationale for the industrial action.

In a statement signed by the Chairperson of Joint Action Force (JAF), Dr. Dipo Fashina, and General Secretary, Mr. Abiodun Aremu, the unions said the current demand for a new National Minimum Wage has gone beyond the stage of negotiation.

The statement said the N30,000 agreed at the Tripartite Committee, which is even very poor (at $83 per month compared to 1981 Minimum Wage of N125 at $250), represents an irreducible minimum for industrial peace.

According to the statement, “What is clear today from the unnecessary tensions being generated in the polity by the APC Looters’ Government and its officials is that none of the 36 state governors and the federal government, irrespective of political parties (APC, PDP and APGA), like in the past struggles for upward review of wage, is committed to pay the minimum wage without being compelled by struggle to do so.

“JAF therefore challenges the presidency, state governors and legislators in the national and state assemblies to forfeit the questionable security votes/ undisclosed allowances, and cut down their outrageous total packages, and salaries and allowances of other political office holders in order to free up more resources that can be used not only to augment the cost of the new wage, but also the provision of social welfare programmes, such as free and quality education and free and adequate health care.”

The unions said that as a regulator, the federal government has a responsibility to enforce compliance of the minimum wage on both public and private employers of 50 employees and above. They said that the government should call the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige to order and to stop spreading falsehoods and deepening the tensions in the polity.

The unions said, “In addition, the federal government should prevail on its agent – Minister Ngige to submit the reports of the Tripartite Committee that agreed on the N30,000 Minimum, and the federal government should prepare immediately a N30,000 new minimum wage bill and send to the National Assembly.

“JAF wants to alert and urge organised labour and Nigerians to further demand that the N30,000 new minimum wage must be implemented to the fullest, without retrenchment and the arrears of salaries and allowances owed on the basis of the 2011 Minimum Wage Act must be paid.

“JAF takes strong notice of the manipulative court injunction obtained by the federal government on Friday November 2, 2018, with the criminal intent to undermine the impending strike action, but JAF is resolved that the strike action must continue.”

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