UPDATE 2-Nigeria unions ease strike threat after govt talks

* Unions say may call off strike on Wednesday

* Presidency says will work on new minimum wage

(Recasts with union comment after meeting)

By Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh

ABUJA, Nov 9 (BestGrowthStock) – Nigeria’s unions moderated their
threat of a three-day strike after the intervention of President
Goodluck Jonathan late on Tuesday, saying they would still stage
a stoppage but may call off the action later on Wednesday.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union
Congress (TUC) had threatened a three-day warning strike from
Wednesday followed by an indefinite stoppage to press demands
for an increase to the monthly minimum wage. [ID:nLDE6A7269]

Jonathan cut short a visit to the commercial hub Lagos on
Tuesday to lead emergency talks late into the evening in a bid
to persuade the unions to drop their threat.

“We have heard the message of Mr President … We will meet
tomorrow by 3 pm (1400 GMT) and we will announce the outcome of
our meeting, whether or not to call off the strike,” acting NLC
president Promise Adewusi told reporters after the meeting.

“For now the only thing we can say is that the strike is on
until it is called off by our organ tomorrow,” he said.

The two unions represent members across most sectors of
sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest economy and widespread
industrial action could bring parts of the country to a halt.

It would also be a headache for Jonathan’s administration as
it gears up for elections expected next April.

“In the overriding interest of the nation, President
Jonathan urges labour leaders, once again, to embrace continued
dialogue on the issue of a new national minimum wage,” the
presidency said in a statement ahead of the talks.

It said the government would present union leaders with its
“action plan for a new national minimum wage in the shortest
possible time” and that Jonathan’s administration was committed
to “realistic wages” for all workers.

The unions want the monthly minimum wage more than doubled
to 18,000 naira ($120) from 7,500 naira, citing the rising cost
of living. Inflation has been in double-digit figures for at
least two years, driven mostly by food and transport prices.

Widespread industrial action has been rare in the past few
years in Nigeria and previous walkouts tended not to last more
than a day or two in a country where much of the population get
by on $2 a day or less and can ill afford to stop work.

Unions affiliated to the NLC and TUC include bodies
representing civil servants, medics, teachers, telecoms and bank
workers, road and air transport workers, and employees of the
oil and gas industry.

If widely followed, the strike action could shut down parts
of the economy, though the senior oil workers’ union PENGASSAN
has said it would call out only office workers and would not
disrupt core operations in the mainstay oil and gas industry.
(For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the
top issues, visit: http://af.reuters.com/ )
(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Charles Dick)

UPDATE 2-Nigeria unions ease strike threat after govt talks