Organised labour comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) have demanded that federal government should do all that is necessary to ensure that the Tripartite Committee negotiating the new minimum wage is allowed to conclude its work within 14 days. The workers warned that should government fail to meet this demand, they could not guarantee continued industrial peace and harmony. The ultimatum was contained in a joint press statement signed by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, TUC President, Bobboi Bala Kaigama and ULC President, Joe Ajaero. The workers described as provocative the statement by the minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige who said a few days ago that the Tripartite Committee negotiating the new minimum wage should adjourn indefinitely to enable him do further consultations with the government. The statement stressed that the minister’s pronouncement came at a time the committee was finalising its work of arriving at a definite figure for submission to government. “We view his latest pronouncement with great concern, suspicion and outrage. This new antic certainly is not acceptable to Nigerian workers who had expected a new national minimum wage since 2016 but who out of uncommon sacrifice and patriotism hearkened to government’s appeal and the process was delayed.
“You may wish to recollect that the National Minimum Wage Committee was inaugurated in November 2017 but commenced work in March 2018 with timelines to deliver on its mandate of arriving at a new national minimum wage in August/ September 2018,” the statement reads in part. They said that in the course of the work of the committee, members had ample time to consult, stressing that in any case the committee was satisfied that it received memoranda and inputs from 21 state governments, specialised agencies of the federal government, the organised private sector, organised labour and the general public. The workers recalled that Dr. Ngige himself had assured workers during the 40th anniversary celebration of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in February this year that workers should expect a new national minimum wage in September this year.
“We wonder what has gone amiss between February 28 and now. Or do we assume that the Honourable Minister is acting a script? “In light of this, his pronouncement is capable of rubbishing the work of the committee as well as raising serious concerns about the readiness of the government to accede to the putting together of a new national minimum wage. Beyond this, the minister’s pronouncement has generated considerable tension among workers and provoked sharp reactions from the unions which justifiably argue that the government is only out to waste the time of workers and is not prepared to pay a new national minimum wage. “For the sake of emphasis, the national minimum wage was not only legally due about two years ago, the increase in the pump price of petroleum products by this administration with fundamental consequential effects on the citizenry, the increase in electricity tariff, the massive devaluation of the Naira leading to a punitive exchange rate, and hyper-inflation, all of which led to a rising cost of living for workers and other Nigerians made a new national minimum wage not only necessary but urgent,” the statement reads.