- NLC awaits committee
Paul Obi in Abuja
The federal government monday said it was carefully studying demands by organised labour for a new minimum wage pegged at N56,000 for Nigerian workers.
The position of the government is the first official statement in line with the proposal for a new minimum wage spearheaded by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, kept mute on the issue during the last Workers’ Day even as labour made obvious its stands and threats for a new minimum wage.
Ngige had during a meeting with officials of the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) in Abuja hinted that the federal government was considering the demands painstakingly.
The minister said: “The demand by labour for the review of the minimum wage is a legitimate request which the federal government is carefully studying and appropriately responding to.
“The other day, the labour requested for increased wages for workers and they have only done what they are supposed to do. Therefore, nobody will quarrel with them. At the appropriate time, we shall all sit down because what the labour is asking for is the re-negotiation of an existing Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA).
“Every CBA based on an agreement is subject to re-negotiation at any given time that any of the partners requests for it.” The minister said these while receiving the executive members of the today in Abuja.
Meanwhile, Ngige debunked the notion that whenever the labour makes such demand, it connotes that the Nigerian workforce is at loggerheads with the government.
“It is wrong for people to think that whenever the labour makes such demand the nation is boiling. The labour in Nigeria has for the first time met a labour-friendly government under President Buhari. The government has put machinery in motion as we speak because I have got a letter as the Minister of Labour and Employment for my advice.
“We shall advise the government the way such a tripartite negotiation will be handled so that everybody will be satisfied without any industrial unrest. Government in this sense includes also the state and local governments whom such wages will be binding on. When government takes a decision, we will now move to another stage in the process of re-negotiation of the CBA,” the minister said.
He further stressed that the change mantra of the Buhari administration is geared towards changing the way things are done for the better.
“We are in an era where due process supersedes others. People can only perform their roles and give way for other people to also perform theirs,” he said, adding that labour is part of the tripartite arrangement of the International Labour Organisation structure which Nigeria is signatory to.”
Speaking to THISDAY in an interview, NLC Secretary General, Dr Peter Ozo-Ezon, explained that “it is the prerogative of government to study the demands, the what we are waiting for is the tripartite committee.
“They (government) have document before them; that is their right, what we are asking for is the tripartite committee, and government has to study it so that it will bring good logic on its bargain.
“We are waiting for the convening of the tripartite committee, the federal government can appoint the chairman, the tripartite partners will present the names of their team.”
Ozo-Ezon told THISDAY that contrary to speculations on whether NLC has presented its demands officially to government, labour transmitted its demands officially to government, “including how labour arrived at the N56, 000 as the proposed new minimum wage.”
Meanwhile, President of OTUWA, Mr. Mademba Sock, said the organisation in 2015 took far reaching decisions to revive and re-position OTUWA which was established over three decades ago but still faced a lot of critical challenges.
Sock stated that the decision to re-locate its headquarters from Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire to Abuja was to enhance its operations since the headquarters of ECOWAS is in Abuja.
He further added that the body has a five-year strategic plan meant to galvanise its visions, function effectively and boost its merits for the benefits of the labour unions in the ECOWAS sub-region.
He later invited the minister to the opening ceremony of its workshop which opens in Abuja on May 11.
Sock was accompanied on the visit by the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, Deputy President of OTUWA, Demma Wright and the General Secretary, John Odah, among others.