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Minimum Wage, Maximum Strike: Airports, Railways Shut As Labour Starts Nationwide Strike

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Nigerian workers under the auspices of the main labour unions have commenced a nationwide strike, resulting in widespread disruptions across transportation services.

Airports and railway stations have been particularly affected, leaving travellers stranded and causing significant delays.

The strike, initiated by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and supported by various unions, is a response to the Federal Government’s refusal to agree to a new national minimum wage and address other critical issues.

Travellers hoping to embark on trips from the main international airport, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, could not access the airport on Monday morning as aviation workers had blocked roads.

The Nigerian Union of Railway Workers (NURW) had formally notified the Managing Director of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) in a letter dated June 1, 2024.

The letter, signed by Comrade Igbokwe Francis, stated, “As directed by the NLC, we write to inform you of the commencement of a nationwide strike beginning from midnight Monday, June 3, 2024.

“This is a sequel to the insensitivity of the Federal Government of Nigeria to agree to a new national minimum wage to be passed into law as directed by the organized labour before the last day of May 2024.”

The letter also highlighted other grievances, including the refusal to revert the electricity tariff to the previous rate of N66/kWh from the new rate of N225/kWh and the contentious categorization of Nigerian electricity consumers into bands.

The NURW urged management to ensure the protection of critical equipment and properties during the strike.

The NLC’s demands are rooted in the economic hardships faced by workers, with the current minimum wage set at N33,000 per month, which many argue is insufficient given the rising cost of living.

During meetings with government negotiators, the union emphasized that the government has the financial capacity to meet their demands, citing the purchase of expensive SUVs for lawmakers as an example of misplaced priorities.

In a terse statement on its X.com official handle, the NLC said, “Victory comes by Struggle, A Living Wage is Possible. Strike Action Goes on.”

Earlier in the week, the NLC negotiators had met with government negotiators as both parties held talks to avoid the strike. However, the talks ended in a stalemate.

“We don’t have the right to call off the industrial action approved by our organs. Thus, The action will continue while we will have a meeting with our Organs to relate to them your proposals,” the NLC said, after the meeting.

The strike has garnered widespread support among workers who are struggling to make ends meet.

The impact of the strike extended to railway services, with many routes suspended as workers joined the protest.

In the aviation sector, the unions issued a joint statement signed by Comrade Ocheme Aba, General Secretary NUATE; Comrade Frances Akinjole, Deputy General Secretary ATSSSAN; Comrade Abdul Rasaq Saidu, Secretary General ANAP; and Comrade Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary NAAPE.

The statement directed all branches to comply with the strike.

The notice read, “In compliance with the directive from our labor leaders—Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria—we hereby inform the general public, aviation service providers, airline operators, aviation businesses, and all aviation workers nationwide that starting from 0000hrs of June 3, 2024, all services at all Nigerian airports shall be fully withdrawn till further notice.

“Being not oblivious of the fact that many international flights to Nigeria are already airborne, the strike action will commence at international terminals on June 4, 2024. All aviation workers should recognize the seriousness of this struggle and comply unfailingly. All Branch officers of our unions shall ensure full compliance at all airports.”

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