Nigeria’s main unions started an indefinite nationwide strike over the minimum wage, after talks with government broke down, the leader of an umbrella labour body representing them said.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government vowed to review the minimum wage, particularly in the wake of a fuel price hike and currency devaluation in the last two years aimed at countering the effects of a plunge in global oil prices, Nigeria’s economic mainstay.
Unions want government to almost triple the monthly minimum wage to around 50,000 naira ($164) from 18,000 naira.
“We are going ahead with our planned action,” Peter Ozo-Eson, general secretary of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), told Reuters.
NLC represents workers across most sectors of Africa’s biggest economy, including parts of the oil industry such as tanker drivers and staff at loading depots. Prolonged industrial action can cause widespread disruption.
A 2016 strike organised by the umbrella body following an increase in fuel prices shut banks, schools and parts of the transport system.
Officials from the labour ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Analysts say the strike action, months ahead of the February 2019 presidential election, is designed to ramp up pressure on government to produce a minimum wage proposal.
Buhari is seeking a second term at next year’s poll and his economic record is likely to be scrutinised. He won the 2015 election after pledging to fix the economy, tackle corruption and boost security.
Last year Nigeria emerged from a recession, its first in a quarter of a century. Growth remains fragile and consumer spending is yet to recover in a country where the United Nations estimates most people live on $2 a day or less.