The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) appears poised for a showdown with state governors over their reluctance to comply with the Minimum Wage Act.
The national leadership of the NLC yesterday expressed worry over a new call for the negotiation of the new minimum wage by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. NLC national president Comrade Abdulwaheed Umar made this known in Awka.
Umar said that there was no need for a fresh negotiation as the new minimum wage was well negotiated and all the likely problems associated with it thoroughly debated for about a year before it was pegged at N18,000.
The NLC president was speaking at the National Constitution Review Conference of the Radio, Television and Theatre Art Workers Association of Nigeria (RATTAWU). He said that he was still in doubt if men of the level of the governors of the states actually made the call.
Umar said: “I am worried because the governors said they wanted to engage workers in their various states in negotiations regarding the new minimum wage which has already been signed into law.
“The new minimum wage is already a negotiated one, which took us over a year to come up with. I do not believe that very wise men like the governors will come up with such tactical blunder as new negotiations. The law says the federal government shall provide a national minimum wage, while another section says the employers can engage the workers in negotiation, but the bottom line must be N18,000.”
Meanwhile, Anambra State governor Mr. Peter Obi yesterday accepted to pay the new minimum wage in the state since it has been signed into a law.
Obi said he will pay the least sum of N18, 000 to workers in the state as the requirement of the new wage bill stipulates, but he will negotiate the salaries of other workers in the state.
“If this is what they say is the minimum wage, Obi will pay it, but let it be made known that I will negotiate the salaries of the rest of the workers in the state. Even in America, no two states pay the same wage. I will do the negotiations based on what I can afford; no one expects me to pay what Lagos or Rivers states pay because we don’t receive the same amount.”
Amidst the impending industrial dispute over the capacity to pay the N18,000 minimum wage between state governors and the NLC, the National Industrial Court (NIC) has said that it is ready to handle disputes arising from the minimum wage.
The president of the NIC, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, stated this yesterday during an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja.
Adejumo added that the court was equipped to tackle the dispute over the minimum wage between the parties, saying that the new pay was a live issue just as the court had the jurisdiction to address the matter.
The NIC, which derived its legal status by virtue of its listing in the amended 1999 Constitution, is the only statutorily specialized court to handle employees and employers’ disputes.
On the NIC’s readiness for the dispute between the stakeholders, Adejumo said: “Under Section 243(c) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, part of the power of this court is adjudication of matters arising from the minimum wage disputes.
“The court can entertain matters arising from minimum wage in any part of the federation. This is the only court that has the jurisdiction over the issue of minimum wage.”