After several months of delay and foot dragging, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige last Thursday disclosed that he had cleared nominations into the committee that would come up with a new minimum wage for workers with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The news is coming at a time, workers are increasing becoming agitated with what they feel is government deliberate ploy to delay the passage of a new minimum wage.
It would be recalled that following the decision of the federal government to remove fuel subsidy last year and increase pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N87 to N145, the organised labour under the NLC and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), negotiated among other palliatives, N56,000 as the new national minimum wage.
Ngige after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting said, “I have cleared the appointments with the President today (Thursday) and as soon as the labour people come back from the Labour Governing Board meeting in Geneva, we will take a consensus date with the governors because it is a tripartite committee involving federal, states and the private sector: NECA, MAN, NACCIMA, SMEs.
“The NLC, TUC and their affiliates have done their nominations. What we are now trying to fine-tune is the date for inauguration.”
President Muhammadu Buhari early this year was reported to have given a go-ahead order for a 29-man committee of the government and organised labour to negotiate a new national minimum wage for workers. Ngige was quoted to have assured in March this year that the government and labour unions met to finalise the report of an earlier constituted technical committee.
According to him, the next stage was to constitute the minimum wage review committee which will work with the report of the technical committee.
However after several months of delay, the federal government t and organized labour are now ready to commence negotiation on the much debated minimum wage following the approval given by President Buhari on nomination from government side. It is now a matter of when.
The workers had in various fora expressed frustration that despite the mouthed plans by the Federal Government to ease their suffering occasioned by the fuel subsidy removal, nothing seems to be moving and no concrete action has been taken to address the dire situation.
Prior to the 2009 minimum wage increment demand, in February 2009, leaders of Congress recalled that the demand for upward review of workers’ wage in modern day started in 1945, noting that between 1945 when workers staged the famous 45 days general strike for a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) and 2007, when the demand won by workers for a 25% general wage through the Ernest Shonekan Wage Consolidation Committee was arbitrarily cut down to 15% by Obasanjo, workers had struggled at 15 times to have wages improved and a national minimum wage legislated upon.
In March 2011, a couple of days to the April 2011 general elections, President Goodluck Jonathan signed the new Minimum Wage Act into law. The law saw an increase of the national minimum wage from N7, 500 to N18, 000.
That was perhaps one of the most memorable moments for workers under that jonathan administration, which was also bedeviled with various strike action and the famous anti-subsidy protest in 2012.
However, the road to that signing was not easy. The workers’ long journey to the N18,000 minimum wage, which the Senate passed into law on Tuesday, February 22, started long before the late President Musa Yar’Adua, on July 14, 2009, through the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, inaugurated a tripartite Presidential Committee on National Minimum Wage, headed by Chief Justice Alfa Modibbo Belgore.
Interestingly, six years after that last Minimum wage Act was signed into law, labour and government are back to a familiar turf.
It would be recalled that before government and labor arrived at the N18, 000 in 2011, the NLC had in December 2008, after a report of an internal committee it set up look to work out appropriate minimum wage, publicly demanded for N52,200 minimum wage for workers.
However, the question now is, how much labour and government will agree on as a new wage. It would be recalled that since the last agreed minimum wage in 2011, state governors have been kicking against it and have on several occasions threatened to retrench workers if government will not review the revenue sharing formula to enable state and local government to earn more.
In November 2015, chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State while addressing the press after their meeting said that the N18,000 national minimum wage promulgated into law in 2011 was no longer sustainable because of the fall in the price of crude oil. The governor also claimed that the nation-al minimum wage was ‘imposed’
The NLC, TUC are demanding N56,000 as the new national minimum wage at a time most state governors are struggling to pay their workers the current N18, 000 are owe a backlog of salaries and pension arrears.