Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nigeria unions suspend strike after pay promise

Nigeria's two largest unions have agreed to suspend their three-day strike after one day's stoppage.

Union leaders said the government had assured them the monthly minimum wage would double to $120 (£75).

But union leaders said they would meet again in a month's time to review progress on the issue.

The strike has disrupted flights and activities in schools, offices and hospitals in major towns and cities across the oil-rich nation.
Panic buying

The BBC's Caroline Duffield in Lagos says union leaders met as the nationwide strike brought government offices to a halt on Wednesday.

There has been panic buying and long queues at petrol stations amid fears of fuel shortages.

President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly pleaded with the two unions - the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress - to limit the strike to one day only, she says.

Union leaders were demanding that the government honour the national minimum agreement made in 2009.

Inflation has been running at double-digit rates in recent years, driven by increases in food and transportation costs.

The minimum wage has not risen for a decade.

"We go to the market with the so-called senators who take home millions [of naira], and have to buy at the same level," Zachary Abu, a student in the northern city of Kaduna, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"We cannot really afford most of the basic things we need in our life."

In Lagos, the main commercial city in the south of the country, a small rally organised by the unions went ahead on Wednesday although many workers decided to stay at home.

A trader who watched the activists march past told AP news agency: "There's plenty of money in Nigeria.

"Nigeria has oil. Nigeria has everything... But we're just managing to survive."

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