By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The stage seems set for a major confrontation between workers and government over the disagreement on the new national minimum wage.
While the organised labour is agitating for N30,000 as the new minimum wage, the state governors are offering N22,500 as what the states could afford.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba said that the organised labour will maintain its stand on the implementation of N30,000 as the new minimum wage and would not accept any move to negotiate it downwards.
He said barring any change of position by government, members of the organised labour will proceed with the planned strike on Tuesday.
Wabba also tried to correct the impression that there was a stalemate during the tripartite negotiations, insisting that the issue of N30,000 minimum wage was conclusively resolved and the report signed.
He said: “More than 50% of the stakeholders have signed the report, and there was no disagreement, that is the point I want people to realise. No one can dispute the fact that the signature part of the report document has been signed by members.”
He explained that the reason some other members of the tripartite did not sign on that day was because it was getting late and they offered do so later.
“We say with confidence, let the president make the report public so that the matter will be laid to rest and so that Nigerians will know who was lying. For us we remain resolute on our position on the issue of new minimum wage,” he said.
He frowned on the alleged move to create division within the ranks of the organised private sector by getting an insignificant segment to cast aspersions on the diligent work done by the tripartite committee.
“NECA was also there at the negotiations and I am sure they will issue a formal statement to confirm what we are saying. So this issue of threatening the organised private sector and trying to divide their rank and file will not work,” he said.
Wabba said that by law, new minimum wage ought to be in place ever four years and the present minimum wage has expired in 2016.
“The legal implications of continued delay in fixing a new minimum wage is that government is already in breech of the law,” he said.
Explaining further the processes of negotiation, Wabba said that at the beginning, all parties submitted proposed amounts for the new minimum wage.
He said that the organised labour proposed N66,500, while the private sector and at least 21 states also submitted figures.
According to the NLC President, negotiations ensued and at the end everyone settled for N30,000.
“Through the process of collective bargaining, recognised by our laws, in the process of give and take that N30,000 was mutually agreed by all the parties at the conclusion of the tripartite negotiations on October 5,” Wabba said.
He said it was clear that a cross section of the stakeholders signed the agreement at the end of negotiations, adding that Labour has resolved to stand by that agreed figure and insist that the president should do the needful by transmitting the figure to the National Assembly to be debated and passed into law.
The labour leader said that as far as NLC is concerned, a deal has been struck at the end of the tripartite negotiations and there is no going back on the negotiations.
He also questioned the rationale for the state governors to regroup under the auspices of the Governors Forum and to attempt to rubbish the report of the minimum wage.
Wabba accused the Governors Forum of insincerity, saying that they had once promised to provide three-year audited accounts to labour movement to enable it have better understanding of the financial situation of the states but failed to do so.
He challenged any state chief executive who feels that he is uncomfortable with the N30,000 proposal to go home and tell his workers that he will not pay and see what would be their response.