Another round of protests and strikes loom if…. – Esele

By Ogechi Okorie

ABUJA – Former president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and ex-president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Peter Esele has predicted there will another round of protests and strikes should federal government unilaterally announce a new minimum wage on May 1, without the input of organised labour.

Speaking with our correspondent, Esele noted that the Federal Government and organised labour should agree on a new minimum wage before it is announced by the president on Workers’ Day to avoid another round of protests and strikes.

He said, “First, I will be surprised if organised labour says the Federal Government should announce the minimum wage. Probably the unions are hoping that by then, they will have concluded negotiations with the government. But for me, if the negotiation is not concluded by that time and the Federal Government goes ahead to announce the new national minimum wage, it is also possible that organised labour will dispute it. And what we are going to have is another round of protests and strikes.

“So my expectation for the labour unions is to put what they want on the table, while the Federal Government also puts theirs on the table. They should then both agree. But, suppose the Federal Government goes ahead and unilaterally announces a new national minimum wage, labour would oppose it, which, as I said, will lead to another round of industrial actions.

“It will be strange if the Federal Government announces the new minimum wage on Workers’ Day. However, I believe the governments are also smart enough not to make such a move unless they reach an informal agreement with the organised labour, and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association”.

Esele also ruled out the possibility of problems arising if organised labour and the Federal Government fail to reach a concrete agreement on the new minimum wage by May Day.

He said, “The fact again remains that if both parties are still on the negotiation table by next month, it does not prevent the proposed new minimum wage from taking effect that month. What it simply implies is that whenever the agreement comes, the government will pay arrears.

“Even in the organised private sector, that is what we do. You can go on negotiation for even six months, but once an agreement is finally reached, and the last collective bargaining has expired, for whatever is agreed whether in six months or a year later, the arrears will be paid by the employers, which is the government in this case. So if the agreement is in place, it doesn’t matter whether they announce it on May 1 or not, the salary arrears must be paid.”

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