Abuja, Nigeria — Nigerian workers’ unions launched a nationwide strike protesting the failure to implement a new minimum wage to help workers cope with the high cost of living amid economic reforms.

The strike began Monday morning following a notice by the Nigerian Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress — the NLC and TUC respectively — on Friday.

There was widespread compliance as workers across various sectors abstained from duty.

Union representatives said the strike was triggered after weeks of failed negotiations to implement a new minimum wage.

The unions had proposed $370 as the new monthly minimum wage, citing soaring costs of living caused by government policies.

NLC spokesperson Benson Upah said unions have been patient with authorities.

“As far as we know, no government has been this lucky,” Upah said. “And for our uncommon understanding and patience with this administration, we have been called names. Yet this government does not want to wake up.”

Nigeria’s government is proposing about $49 dollars as the new minimum wage up from about $24.

Authorities have condemned the nationwide strike calling it illegal and unnecessary.

On Sunday, a Nigerian senate committee met with the unions in a bid to settle the dispute. But after long negotiations, the NLC and TUC said they failed to reach an agreement.

After Sunday’s meeting with unions, Senate president Godswill Akpabio told journalists whatever agreement is reached “will be mutually beneficial to all, both the government and the workers.”

In May 2023, President Bola Tinubu introduced economic reforms including the scrapping of fuel subsidy and currency unification with the aim of boosting the economy.

But the policies have been blamed for raising the cost of living, sparking strikes by workers who want policies reversed or a higher minimum wage.

Upah said the government is implementing foreign policies without considering Nigeria’s needs.

“We do not know who the beneficiaries of these policies are, because we the workers are dying. Manufacturers are dying. Other entities are dying,” he said. “No reasonable government leaves their national currency to the stumps of the market. They do something behind the scenes quietly. But we took a dictation from the World Bank, IMF, hook, line and sinker.”

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