The Nigerian government on October 18, Friday, partially accepted demands by unions over pay hikes for the country’s civil servants, averting a major strike. The dispute over the issue had remained even after the new national minimum wage of N30,000 (USD 82) was announced by president Muhammad Buhari in April.
Resisting pressure from organized labor since last year, the government had claimed it did not have sufficient resources to increase the national minimum wage which stood at N18,000 (USD 49.71). It finally announced the new national minimum wage in April.
“[W]e made them understand that some people cannot be more Nigerian than others. If we are tightening our belts, the government should also do so,” said Quadri Olaleye, president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
However, disagreements over its implementation persisted until last week. The government had offered to raise the salaries of civil servants from grade levels 7 to 14 by 11%, and of those employed in grade levels 15 to 17 by 6.5%. The unions – the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), the Nigeria Union of Civil Service and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) – were demanding a rise of 29% for the former and 24% for the latter.
With the government refusing to concede, mobilization for a major strike action had begun, and civil servants across the country were set to down tools last on October 16, Wednesday, in case an agreement was not reached by Tuesday.
However, after the government sought another meeting on Thursday, the strike action was suspended. Beginning at 8:30 pm on Thursday, the meeting went on until 3 am on Friday, by the end of which an agreement was finally arrived at.
As per this agreement, the core civil servants employed in grade level 7 will get a hike of 23.2%. A 20% hike will be given to grade level 8 employees, and 19% to those in grade level 9. A 16% hike will be given to those in grade levels 10-14 and 14% for grade levels 15-17.
For workers who are not core civil servants but are employed by the federal government, the hike will be 23.2% for grade level 7, 16% for grade levels 8-14 and 10.5% for grade levels 15-17.
Commending the organized labor and the government for arriving at an agreement without having to undertake a strike that would have further damaged the ailing economy, Olaleye said “As an organization and a major stakeholder in the Nigerian project, we believe that the parties have done well. We shifted grounds and that is why we were able to resolve things without major injuries. It is a win-win situation.”