The federal government yesterday assured workers in the country that the new minimum wage would be announced before the end of the third quarter of 2018.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, made this known in Abuja during the first series of public lectures to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
This is just as the NLC warned those seeking to slowdown or frustrate the process of review of the minimum wage, saying they will be resisted.
It said it was time to re-strategise and change its tactics during engagements with government and employers.
In his address, Ngige said that the minimum wage is not something that the workers should be grumbling about because the wage will be ready not later than the third quarter.
He said, “In furtherance to the determination of the federal government to attain the Decent Work Agenda which involves opportunities for work that are productive and deliver a fair income, security in the work place and social protection for families, there have been overtime, three minimum wage reviews and currently the tripartite committee on national minimum wage is set to review the current minimum wage.
“Memoranda are being reviewed for relevant bodies and persons to enable the determination of a new minimum wage for the nation. Better late than never because some state governors are still owing and cannot pay the current N18,000 minimum wage to workers.
“That is why we are ensuring we bring all stakeholders along and announce the new minimum wage at the appropriate time. But I can assure you that the third quarter is the maximum time the new minimum wage will be announced.”
Ngige however warned workers to show respect to rights of employers during confrontation.
He said, “It is pertinent to point out a misnomer that exists amongst trade unions in their pursuits of their relative happiness in terms of industrial relations. Most often I get trade dispute declarations on issues of appointment, discipline and promotion.
“On these issues, the workers often have genuine cases and they are handled accordingly, with all intent to eliminate any unfair labour practices.
“However, often the workers through their respective trade unions do over step by dictating to the employer who to appoint or otherwise. This is not right. Workers cannot dictate to the employer how to run his business; also the employer has no business interfering with trade union affairs.
“There is need for mutual respect in the nation’s industrial relation system to create an amicable industrial relations environment that will create wealth, sustainable development and growth for the good of all citizens.”
The minister further noted that over the years the efforts of the federal government to ensure a sound industrial relations system by maintaining good employment relationship with labour had resulted in the establishment of a viable legal framework for labour administration.
He said, “I must use this opportunity to implore the NLC to be mindful of trade disputes of interest. Although such disputes of interest may invariably transmute to disputes of rights, the NLC must always bear in mind that social dialogue remains the critical tool in pursuing disputes of interest in order to fully realise the intent of declaring the dispute in the first instance.”
On his part, NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, said at 40, the NLC is still relevant today, as it has ever been, adding that it cannot be wished away.
According to Wabba, the NLC is today seen as a formidable force to be reckoned with by social partners and the entire society, stressing that increasingly, citizens look up to the NLC to resist anti-people policies that adversely affect them.
He stated that the NLC defend the people when their rights are violated and play key roles in influencing and shaping public policy to the advantage of citizens.
He said, “Today, we are still engaged in numerous contestations to protect our members and Nigerians as a whole. We are indeed clear that the architecture of the battlefield has changed from the militaristic control of politics and governance to an environment where democratic institutions such as the legislature, the executive, political parties and the judiciary are in existence.
“This scenario presents a golden opportunity for us to engage these institutions and we will continue to do so with the aim of securing concessions for our members and defend the rights of the general public. Our strategies and tactics may slightly change, but we will never deviate from our goals.”
Wabba said having attempted to outline the desirability and the inevitability of reviewing the national minimum wage in the country, the legitimate demand for the review of the current N18, 000 minimum wage is borne out of the current reality of higher cost of living, free fall of the naira, and high cost of goods and services.
He assured that NLC will continue to work with governments at all levels to find ways and means to upscale and maintain social protection regimes that can effectively contribute to walking millions out of poverty.
He continued: “Nevertheless, we will continue to resist casualization and the new forms of work that undermine decent work and threaten jobs.
“We are prepared to deal with employers, especially governors who deny workers and pensioners their salaries and pensions. Workers, pensioners and their families will not give them any further political support, especially their votes.
Era of carrying placards over – Oshiomhole
Meanwhile, former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has urged the NLC to go beyond carrying placards or embarking on strike to acquire political powers if it hopes to continue to remain relevant and bring about the changes it is canvassing for.
Oshiomhole, a former NLC president, said placards can moderate and force employers to go back and restrategise, but placards and the most potent strike will not change their value system.
He said, “So, I came to the conclusion that those who are in power will never govern according to your role values. The position they take on or the policy choices they make are not the result of errors of your judgement. They are the conscious decision taken in order to ensure that a particular class gets more. And the more a particular class gets the less that is available for the rest of the masses.
“So, government and governance is value driven; it is a basic act to decide who gets what and who pays for it.
Placards can moderate and force them to go back and restrategise. But placards and the most potent strike will not change their value system. Rather, they go back and strategise on how best to continue to dominate and use the instrument of state to enrich those they wish and pauperise those they so wish to.
“Placards, persuasion and negotiation cannot make some certain changes that workers actually need. So, the NLC need to acquire some political powers. It needs to reposition itself and use it powers to effect those changes it desires. And the union needs not to doubt whether it has that kind of capacity.”
Also, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, assured that the House of Representatives will support ongoing effort to secure a living wage for the Nigerian worker and ensure that in retirement, workers are sufficiently taken care of.
The Speaker said the NLC has lived up to expectation in discharging its role of protecting the interests and welfare of the Nigerian worker.
Dogara acknowledged the struggle of former leaders of labour for their leadership and sacrifices that ensured the continued existence of one united and robust labour organisation in Nigeria.
In a statement signed by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Turaki Hassan, on the commemoration of 40th anniversary of the NLC, Dogara acknowledged the brave and courageous moves taken by the congress when necessary to ensure that better rights and privileges are conveyed on the Nigerian worker.
He said, “Indeed, the NLC has come of age. It has played a pivotal role in the struggle for better rights and privileges for the Nigerian worker. The NLC since its founding by a military decree has lived up to its responsibilities of articulating and pursing the enlightened interests of the working man and woman. It has sometimes confronted the authorities by using the mechanism of strikes and in some instances the mere threat of action has enough to bring relevant authorities to the negotiating table.
“We must use this occasion to salute the former leaders of Labour for their leadership and sacrifices that ensured the continued existence of one united and robust labour organisation in Nigeria. The present leadership must ensure that this legacy bequeathed to them is maintained and even surpassed”.
He continued: “The NLC must remain strong, united and progressive. It must work in concert with both government and the private sector to enthrone a viable and strong economy for Nigeria, which is the only sustainable way to ensure better working conditions for the Nigerian worker.
“The major challenge facing Labour today is to negotiate a meaningful National Minimum Wage for Nigerian workers. I wish to lend the support of the House of Representatives to the ongoing effort to secure not only a living wage for the Nigerian worker but to ensure that in retirement workers are sufficiently taken care of. The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.”
Also, former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Mega, said Nigerian workers deserve better than what has been offered to them so far by the present political class.
Delivering a lecture titled, ‘Labour, Politics and Governance in Nigeria’ at the opening event to mark the NLC 40th anniversary in Abuja yesterday, Jega who was the guest lecturer said workers must mobilise to engage in policy and legislative advocacy.
Jega also charged the current leadership of NLC to retrace its steps and rekindle the spirit and strength the NLC of old used during the military era, saying Nigerian workers need a more serious, effective and organised Labour union now than ever”.
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