Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nationwide strike starts

The first day of a planned three-day countrywide strike over pay went ahead in Nigeria Wednesday, despite last ditch attempts by President Goodluck Jonathan to avert it.

Federal government offices were deserted whilst banks were shut and public bus services were cancelled.

Schools and gas stations however remained open and privately run taxis were operating as usual as tens of thousands of commuters ignored the strike call.

Jonathan on Tuesday cut short a business visit to Lagos to fly back to the capital Abuja to personally take part in emergency late night talks with the country's main unions.

Those talks ended with the unions saying the strike would proceed as planned, but labour leaders said they would meet again later on Wednesday.

"The only thing we can say ... is that the strike is on until it is called off," said Promise Adewusi, acting president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

The unions had initially demanded an almost 700 per cent pay rise on the national minimum wage, which has stood at 7,500 naira (36 euros) for the past decade despite double-digit inflation.

After months of negotiations, they settled for a 240 per cent pay hike to 18,000 naira (87 euros), but some three months on the government has yet to accept the recommended figure.

It is feared the strike could shut down Nigeria, the world's eighth-largest oil exporter and Africa's most populous country.


Related story: Blackout looms as PHCN workers embark on strike

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