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Minimum wage: Tinubu’s Minister Tackles Labour as NASS fails to stop strike

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, (SAN), has faulted the organised labour over the nationwide strike it is starting today (Monday).

Fagbemi, in a letter to the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress leaders, dated June 1, 2024, insisted that the strike over the new minimum was a violation of a subsisting National Industrial Court order restraining the unions from grounding the nation through the strike action.

READ Labour Insists No Going Back On Strike As NASS Last-Minute Talks Hit Rock

The AGF said this as a meeting convened by the National Assembly leaders on Sunday night failed to achieve its objective following the NLC and  TUC’s insistence on going ahead with today’s strike.

The meeting, which was presided over by the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, was attended by the NLC president Joe Ajaero, and his TUC counterpart,  Festus Osifo.

Also, the Minister of State for Labour, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, affirmed that the government could not pay more than N60,000, which she said represented a 100 per cent increase on the current minimum wage.

On Sunday, the Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, told The PUNCH that the labour leaders might have an ulterior motive, stressing that the minimum wage offer they presented was unrealistic for both the federal and state governments.

N60,000 offer

On Friday, Organised Labour declared an indefinite nationwide strike due to the Federal Government’s refusal to increase its new minimum wage offer above N60,000.

The President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, announced that the strike followed failed negotiations between the government and organised labour, and its refusal to reverse the withdrawal of the power sector subsidy and increase in electricity tariff.

The unions had earlier given the May 31, 2024 deadline for the conclusion of new minimum wage negotiations.

The government had raised its minimum wage offer from N57,000 to N60,000 while the labour unions reduced their demand to N494,000 from N497,000 proposed earlier. The labour leaders initially demanded N615,000.

But the negotiations deadlocked as the government maintained its offer of N60,000, leading to the declaration of a nationwide indefinite strike.

However, the AGF in his letter addressed to the presidents of the NLC, Ajaero and the TUC, Festus Usifo, strongly condemned the planned industrial action, stating that it was wrong of organised labour to call out workers at a time when the government and other stakeholders were working towards determining a new national minimum wage.

The letter was copied to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Chief of Staff to the President, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, the National Security Adviser, the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, the Department of State Service.

Citing the Trade Union Dispute Act 2004, Fagbemi argued that the NLC and the TUC were required to issue mandatory strike notices of a minimum of 15 days.

The letter read, “It is pertinent to observe that at no time did either the  NLC or the TUC declare a trade dispute with their employees or issue any strike notice as required by law for such strike action to be legitimate and lawful.

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