Construction workers suspend strike after minister’s intervention

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By Michael Oche

National Union of Civil Engineering Construction, Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCEFWW) and Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA) on Wednesday called off its nationwide strike after a resolution reached at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

The decision followed a crucial two-day meeting at the instance of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Barr. Nkeriuka Onyejeocha, between the National Union of Civil Engineering Construction, Furniture, and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), the Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA) and their employers, the Federation of Construction Industries (FOCI).

The unions, representing thousands of workers in the construction industry, began its strike Tuesday. The workers embarked on the strike action to protest the non-implementation of wage awards and palliatives following the withdrawal of fuel subsidies.

They had also accused construction companies of refusing to implement wage awards for workers in the construction industry in line with the agreement between the Federal Government and the organised labour.

However, after extensive deliberations facilitated by the Minister, an agreement was reached to address the workers’ concerns.

Highlighting the government’s commitment to give priority to welfare of workers, the Minister urged the negotiating parties to consider its relevant concerns during their discussion on wage consideration.

She noted that “there was an existing agreement to improve the lives of Nigerian workers. “This economic hardship, she noted “affects everyone, regardless of affiliation. No sensible person would ignore the current economic challenge and its impact on wages. That was why the government proposed a temporary wage award while we finalized the minimum wage review. As responsible leaders, we must ensure resources are used wisely, not wasted.

“This is about doing what’s right for Nigeria. Let’s move forward with willingness to negotiate and find a solution that benefits everyone

“We are not here to win an argument. Our aim is to do what is right for Nigerians and our nation, the readiness to negotiate and move forward. We cannot as a government allow anyone to spend our people instead of spending money”, she added.

On their part, the delegations of NUCEFWW and CCESSA led by Comrade Stephen Igho Okaro (President) and Comrade Ajayi Adeyemo (President) maintained that the Nigerian workers are Nigerians and the Nigerian law is binding to all workers.

On its part, the FOCI leadership appealed for calm, saying though they were not captured in the agreement between the federal government and organised labour, they were ready to negotiate on new wage terms.

“This is a family meeting and I want to say that our discussion will be centered on the fact that we are one family. One this, one thing common is that none of us (employers and workers) is happy with the economic situation.

“The bone of contention is the agreement signed by labour and the government, which the private sector is not part of. The memorandum of understanding didn’t capture us.

“We are ready to negotiate with our workers, and I am begging them to hear us”, said FOCI President.