The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday said it would not accept the continued delay in approving workers’ demand for a new national minimum wage.

The NLC was apparently reacting to a statement credited to the minister of labour and employment, Senator Chris Ngige, that the September date for the new minimum wage to take off was not feasible.

Ngige had stated that September was just a planning timeline when the minimum wage committee is expected to conclude its assignment and submit a report to the president.

LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that the labour union had proposed N66,500 as the new national minimum wage. The existing N18,000 minimum wage has been in operation since 2011 but many state governments have not been paying salary to workers, citing paucity of funds.

NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said in a statement in Abuja that it was now close to eight years since the last review of the national minimum wage took place, adding that Nigerian workers are demanding a change in the humiliating culture of forcing workers to bargain too hard and wait too long for meagre increases in their salaries.

LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that the minister of labour and employment had said that when the committee concludes its assignment, it will be sent to the National Economic Council and the Federal Executive Council for approval before a bill is sent to the National Assembly to legalise it, before payment can start –processes that make it increasing unlikely that the new wage will be ready by September.

But the NLC is not happy with the position of the minister, describing it as provocative and inconsistent with the fervour so far demonstrated by the tripartite committee.

The statement reads: “Nigerian workers are shocked by statements credited to the minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, and reported by many national media houses that Nigerian workers should wait beyond September 2018 for the new national minimum wage.

“We used the word “shocked” because it was the same minister that in February 2018, without prompting or pressure, announced to the whole world that by September, 2018, the federal government would start paying the new national minimum wage.

“The current volte face by the minister of labour is not only provocative; it is also insensitive especially in the face of the excruciating suffering being endured by Nigerian workers particularly as occasioned by the increase in the cost of living.

“Nigerian workers who are not privileged to earn fat salaries, allowances, estacodes and other perks of political appointment are looking forward to enjoy minimal relief in the form of the new national minimum wage.

“The leadership of the NLC regards the gaffe as inconsistent with the fervour so far demonstrated by the tripartite committee set up by Mr President to review the national minimum wage.”

Wabba added that the minister’s stance also differed from the declaration made by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo when he represented President Muhammadu Buhari at this year’s May Day celebration.

According to him, Yemi Osinbajo promised Nigerian workers that government was committed to ensuring that the issue of the new national minimum wage was concluded and delivered.

“Our position was that we would expedite actions at the level of the tripartite committee on the minimum wage and ensure that discussions and negotiations are concluded by August 2018 so that Nigerian workers can start benefitting as quickly as possible from the new national minimum wage.

“Finally, we remind the minister that the review of the national minimum wage is long overdue. The 2011 Belgore Tripartite Committee set up by government agreed that the review of the minimum wage should happen every five years. It is now close to eight years that the last review of the national minimum wage took place,” Comrade Wabba said.

The labour leader noted that for many Nigerian families, the wage review was the difference between survival and extinction.

“The NLC, therefore, categorically rejects the continued delay in approving our demand of N66, 500 as the new national minimum wage,” he stated.