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Festus Osifo: Labour’s Issue Is the Minimum Wage’s Value, Not Its Amount

TUC President Osifo says the upcoming strike is due to the government’s unwillingness to negotiate the minimum wage.

The President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Festus Osifo, says labour’s issue is not the amount of minimum wage the Federal Government is offering but its value, highlighting that the value of Naira be considered. 

Speaking in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Friday night, Osifo affirmed that the indefinite nationwide strike is set to begin on June 3rd unless the government is ready to negotiate a new minimum wage and reverse electricity tariff. 

The strike was caused by the unwillingness of government to make a new offer for the minimum wage at the tripartite meeting held on Friday.

He expressed his dissatisfaction with the low turnout of ministers at the meeting, saying that “out of the three ministers that are members of the committee, only the minister of state labour who is the vice chairman of the committee was there and she’s a conciliator naturally, trying to bring both sides together. So there was really nobody there from the federal to make a substantial offer.

“Irrespective, even if they had asked the minister of state labour to make the offer, she would have been able to do so but on ground today, even 1 kobo was not added,” he added. 

Osifo explained that another of labour’s problem with FG was that “they couldn’t present the analysis we had asked for on how 60,000 would work. We also ask them to bring the value of 18,000-30,000 to today they did not do that.”

Labour showed willingness by offering to remain in that meeting’s venue till the FG brought an offer but they were “giving excuses and were being dismissal. We looked at that and said we have to go on an indefinite strike on Monday.”

He stated that negotiations with the FG will only hold based on a chosen guiding principle to order how the figures will be calculated and amounted. 

He said, “We want to negotiate based on principle. There are principles guiding negotiations. We are not fixated on the value on table today but let us work through this in order to arrive at a value that is fair and just to everybody. Both sides must agree on the principle to be used.” 

Another demand the labour made was the reversal of electricity tariff, Osifo revealed that the reason is because “on May 13 we had a protest and during that protest we addressed FG through a letter on this issue and till today we have not been invited for any conversation.”

He emphasised that labour is still prepared to shift grounds based on value but government was not willing to shift today at all.

He explained, “We have told them that where we are today is simply $40 , in 2011 it was $120, in 2029 it was 90-95. Our problem is value of what they are offering not the volume. If your currency has eroded even if you offer 100% increment, it will be nothing. You have to calculate it and check the value of what you are offering.”

Osifo is confident that Nigerians will buy into the indefinite strike and it will be successful because “the workers have suffered enough, the past one year has been excruciating.”

He stated that the solution to the minimum wage lies in the hands of the government to either choose to negotiate or not.

Nancy Mbamalu

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