The federal government and organised Labour yesterday rejected the offer by state governors to pay N22,500 as new minimum wage.
The Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) had at a meeting held on Tuesday night agreed to pay N22,500 as new minimum wage.
But both the federal government and Labour said it is not enough.
Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, criticised the governors for coming up with such a paltry figure, saying N22,500 is even below the N24, 000 agreed by the federal government.
“The governors have not even done enough. I told them that this N22,500 is even rejected by the Federal Government”, Ngige said.
He however noted that all parties on the ground would resume negotiations to see that the welfare of the workers is met.
The minister said, “The national minimum wage is a national legislation being driven by the federal government of Nigeria in pursuance to item 34 of the Exclusive Legislative list. But you don’t go and make a law which people will disobey at the initial”.
On its part, organised labour warned that if the governors continue to advance their own figures outside the N30,000 mutually agreed by the tripartite committee at the end of its negotiations, it would be forced to revert to its initial demand of N66,500 as new wage for workers.
Addressing journalists in Abuja yesterday, president of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the governors were not only a part of the process from the onset of the negotiation, but were also present at the close of negotiation where a figure was mutually agreed upon by the tripartite committee.
He noted: “The demand of organised labour is not N30,000. Our demand is N66,500. N30,000 is the compromised figure arrived at at the end of negotiations by the tripartite partners – government, employers and organised labour. The new minimum wage was a product of intense negotiations that lasted for almost one year.
“The unilateral pronouncement by governors of N22,500 Minimum Wage is an abuse of every known principle of industrial relations, labour laws, processes and international best practices.
“At this point, labour needs to reiterate that the allocation or award of 22,500 is hereby rejected. It has no place in collective bargaining process. We wish to reiterate our position adopt at our National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of 23rd October, 2018 that any figure below N30,000 will not be accepted by us.
“We call on our members to continue to mobilise in preparation for the commencement of an indefinite strike on the 6th of November, 2018, if by then necessary steps have not been taken to adopt the recommendations of the Tripartite Committee. Our workers are resolute, our unions are resolute, there must be fairness, justice; there must be respect for the rule of law.
“If everybody will revert to the free operation of figures, if federal government will begin to advance figures, if state governors will begin to advance figures, what will stop labour from bringing back the figure that was initially put on the table?”
Wabba stated that the NGF has no moral or constitutional right whatsoever to dictate the amount they are going to pay workers as minimum wage.
He continued: “The Nigeria Governors Forum is not a negotiating body but merely a political organization for the convenience of state governors. The tripartite committee from inception sent letters to each state government to send in their memoranda as their contributions to the new national minimum wage negotiating process. 21 states sent in their memorandum quoting figures.
“We therefore condemn unequivocally the communiqué issued by the Nigeria Governors Forum on October 30, 2018 as an attempt to undermine the authority of Mr President. This position should be equally condemned by all.
“Our demand is that the constitutional, legal and morally right step to take at this point is for the chairman of the national minimum wage tripartite negotiating committee to submit the report of the already concluded national minimum wage negotiations to Mr President for transmission to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.
“We are in a society where (given) any opportunity people will try to exploit you and I think that is what the governors are trying to do because to them any attempt to increase the minimum wage, they will exploit it to see if they can get more money from the federal government.
“Our position is that every governor should go back to his state, because that is the entity that is recognised by law, gather its workers and say we are not willing to pay N30,000; not coming to Abuja and hiding under a forum that is not known to law that they cannot be able to pay the N30,000, while going back to say whatever is agreed they are ready to pay individually.
“I want to call on Mr President to be aware of this mischief that they will go back to their states and say it is the presidency or federal government that is not willing to pay and that they will be willing to pay what is accepted and therefore, let there be this understanding that this forum that made this statement has no legitimacy whatsoever in the context of collective bargaining process in the context of law because what the constitution recognises is individual states.”
Commenting on the letter written by the president, Kaduna chapter of the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Dr. M.F Dankaka, disassociating the organised private sector from N30,000 as agreed figure for a new minimum wage, Wabba noted that Dankaka was made to issue the statement under duress.
He said, “We are also very concerned about the huge pressure being brought upon the Organised Private Sector (OPS) to compromise their stand on the N30,000 compromise New National Minimum Wage.
“This pressure by the enemies of the Nigerian people was what led to the recent statement by NACCIMA that sought to cast aspersion on an already negotiated new national minimum wage. We believe that the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), a reputable body that represents organized labour, will present the fact as it is. Nobody can go out of a collective bargaining process and begin to advance or bend the truth and we stand by that”.
Also, the National Executive Council of Trade Union Congress (TUC) rejected the N22,500 on the ground that the governors’ forum is not an established body empowered to negotiate new minimum wage.
The TUC stated this in a communiqué at the end of its NEC meeting held in Lagos yesterday.
It said that the committee has concluded its job and has come up with N30,000, which TUC stands by.
The federal government’s Economic Management Team (EMT) chaired by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also met yesterday with representatives of the government and the governors to deliberate on the new minimum wage.
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