Organised labour today ordered workers to proceed on a three-day warning strike from Wednesday to Friday next week, to force the federal and state governments to implement the N18,000 new minimum wage.
The declaration was made on Tuesday in Abuja after a meeting of leaders of organised labour in Abuja.
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar, told journalists that the three-day warning strike would be followed by a full-blown industrial action.
Labour leaders had two weeks ago issued a 14-day ultimatum to government to implement the new wage or face a nationwide strike.
The Federal Government responded by announcing that the wage would be paid last week. Some state governments also accepted that they would pay the new wage.
A meeting between labour leaders and Federal Government officials led by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, on Monday in Abuja failed to reach a common stand on the contentious issue of limiting the levels to benefit from the new structure.
While government said the wage should be limited to levels One to Six, Organised Labour said it must be applied across board.
The labour leaders were led by Omar and the President of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Peter Esele.
Leaders of the NLC and the TUC became agitated when the Chairman of the Salaries and Wages Commission, Mr. Richard Egbule, said the new wage would not be accompanied by salary review for all workers, adding that the Federal Government would only apply the wage to workers from level one to six as the Federal Government had reviewed salaries of workers in 2010.
However, Omar said previous increases in the minimum wage were accompanied by a relative review of the salaries of workers and should apply even to the case of the current minimum wage.
He said, ”The increase in the minimum wage was not accompanied by any salary increase as was the case in the increases we have witnessed.
“Salaries were jerked up when the Federal Government increased the minimum wage to N5500 and even went ahead to pay N7, 000. So there has always been relativity. The Federal Government should preserve relativity and work through the marginal increase,” he said.
Esele wondered why the Federal Government had not backed its reported plan to implement the law with practical steps and criticised the government for taking a hasty approach by calling for a negotiation only when labour had issued threats to go on strike.
However, the labour minister assured the workers that a circular for the payment of the new wage had been issued by the Salaries and Wages Commission which would make it impossible for workers to earn below N18, 000 and appealed to the organised labour and other stakeholders to drop the strike option as a measure to resolve the minimum wage issue.
Wogu urged labour to consider the security challenge facing the country and the implication of an industrial action on the nation’s economy.
He also appealed to state governors to fast-track negotiations with labour to commence payment of the new wage.
With the current economy of Nigeria, the last thing we need now is a strike. The Government should be more sympathetic with the plight of the people, increasing their monthly salary and then removing fuel subsidies is like giving yam with one hand and retracting the knife with the other. If the over-paid House of Rep members or Senators were told that their allowance for only fuel would be removed they would probably start trying to impeach Goodluck Jonathan. God help in this country.