The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abia chapter, says the state needs N25 billion to enable it clear the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuity.
Chief Uchenna Obigwe, Abia NLC Chairman, who stated this on Wednesday in Umuahia, appealed to the Federal Government to assist the state clear the arrears.
Obigwe, who addressed journalists on labour’s impending industrial action billed to start at midnight, said organised labour had exhausted all avenues for a peaceful resolution of the agitation for N65,000 minimum wage.
He said that the boycott by representatives of the Federal Government from the tripartite meeting on the minimum wage showed that government was not ready to pay the new wage.
He said: “The National Executive Committee (NEC) of NLC viewed the boycott as a sabotage and concluded that never had government at any level yielded to labour’s demand without any struggle.’’
The NLC chairman said that with the expiration of labour’s two-week ultimatum to Federal Government, “NEC resolved that if the government officials fail to reconvene the tripartite meeting, all workers in the country would proceed on indefinite warning strike by midnight.”
He said that the current minimum wage, which took effect in 2009, was due for a review in 2015, but regretted that Federal Government failed to do the needful.
He said that the rate of inflation in the country had eroded the N18,000 minimum wage and that with the high inflation rate and cost of living, an average Nigerian worker had become more impoverished.
“The N18,000 can no longer take care of housing, education and health of workers,” Obigwe said, adding that the nation’s workers deserved a living wage.
“The cost of living has gone astronomical. There is no way you can ask NLC to fold its hands and watch workers continue to die of hunger and starvation,” he said.
He said that the new minimum wage being demanded by labour was not too big for government at all levels to pay.
According to him, Nigeria pays the least wage in the comity of nations.
The labour leader hailed Federal Government’s anti-corruption war, but warned that it would amount to an effort in futility if it failed to pay the new minimum wage.
He said that the new wage would help to strengthen the anti-graft war, if granted.
“If you pay workers living wage, they will join government to fight corruption to a standstill at all levels,” he said.
Obigwe said that NLC was consulting with the governors on how they could pay the new minimum wage.
He said: “The truth remains that if state governors do not prioritise the deployment of their financial resources, they would continue to waste funds on frivolities.
“Our problem with governors is that they are misplacing their priorities and no longer consider salaries as first charge,” Obigwe said.