1…     A wave of workers strike is sweeping through the Nigerian job market as public sector workers and professionals down tools to protest the delay of some state governments in implementing the provisions of the minimum wage and improved welfare packages. What led to this?

2… Last year,  labour unions negotiated for minimum wage and other packages with the federal government without involving the state governments. The agreements were binding on the states to pay workers the new packages. But the states seem unable to pay saying the increased wage bills has imposed a big burden on their treasuries.  And since they were not part of the negotiations with public sector workers, the exercise negates the spirit of collective bargaining. When the patience of some state government workers for implementation ran out, they embarked on strike.  Where are the strikes going on?

3… In the educational and health sectors as state university lecturers and doctors employed in government hospitals have stayed away from work for months to protest the delay in implementing the new deal for workers. The action has disrupted academic programmes in many tertiary institutions and caused deaths of patients in hospitals. When did it start?

4…The South-East zone members of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU )started their strike July 22, calling on the state governments in the zone to  quickly implement the 2009 Agreement of the Federal Government and ASUU so that they can resume academic activities. The contentious issue here bothers on university funding and autonomy and implementing the conditions of service agreements in the five state universities in the zone.

ASUU says the non-implementation of the agreement is impeding growth of universities in the south-east zone. As they embarked on strike, their counterparts in Benue State University were calling off theirs which lasted two and half months. What are the effects of the strike?

5… It has paralysed activities in General Hospitals in Lagos leaving many patients unattended to. The issue at stake is implementing the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale approved by the federal government.   While the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association wanted the state government to negotiate with the striking doctors, the government said it cannot pay the new scale because it will create an additional N1.8 billion monthly wage bill burden. Lagos state also observed that the federal government agreed with the NMA to increase salaries of health professionals without consulting the states.  What is the other side of the story?

6… As the hard times bite harder, workers are forcefully demanding better pay through their trade and labour unions. This drives their union officials to the negotiation table with government officials.

The real story behind these strikes is that there appears to be a fundamental flaw in these negotiations which inevitably spills over to workers strikes. And that is, excluding some relevant stakeholders such as state governments who should be at the negotiation table to state their case and pledge to abide by all agreements. And when state governments are not represented at such meets, workers find it difficult to make them to comply with agreements which by extension are binding on states.

Some states comply, but a good number say they cannot and their workers go on strike. And so the implementation of agreements of wage increases for public sector workers reached at the federal level is booby-trapped right there on the negotiation table. What is the story of the trade unions?

7… Early August, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) threatened to grind economic activities nationwide if the state governments do not begin to pay workers the minimum wage. And it called on President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene so that workers can begin to enjoy the new wages. The TUC said it would direct all its affiliates and state councils to formally request state governments to pay the new wage structure. But the state governments are not co-operating because they were not part of the negotiations.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) is also threatening a showdown. It is urging government to send an amendment on the existing national minimum wage to the National Assembly so as to fast track the promulgation of a new national Minimum Wage Act. When will the story of this strikes end?

Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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