Labour Insists on Tuesday Protest over Minimum Wage

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•Governors accuse NLC of blackmail

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has said it will proceed with its protest scheduled for Tuesday following the failure of the federal government to make a clear commitment on the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage by 12 midnight.

Its General Secretary, Mr. Peter Essom, had told THISDAY on telephone that if the president fails to submit the bill for the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage by December 31 as demanded by Labour, they would have no option than to proceed with the protest scheduled for January 8.

The demand was not met by the federal government yesterday, making the likelihood of the protest imminent.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) has expressed displeasure over what it described as false assertion that governors are refusing to pay the N30,000 national minimum wage as demanded by workers.

In a statement yesterday by the NGF’s Head of Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Bello-Barkindo, the governors accused the NLC of trying to destroy the existing conviviality that is already building-up between workers and their governors in the states.

It said the statement credited to the NLC General Secretary, Essom, that the governors did not want an increase minimum wage was not only mischievous, but misleading and in bad faith.
The statement read in part, “State governors are making concerted efforts to improve education, health and infrastructure and for this, would not, therefore, dedicate their states’ entire resources to workers salaries alone, knowing that workers constitute less than five per cent of the nation’s population.”

The NGF said the governors collectively resolved that no state would devote more than 50 per cent of its revenue to salaries.
It said, “To, therefore, insist that states must oblige the NLC its demands, regardless of the economic gloom that stares the nation in the face is most unpatriotic and a deliberate attempt to hold the nation, especially the president, to ransom, this being an election year.

“At this point it is important to remind the NLC that most governors exhibited a high sense of responsibility and concern for the plight of workers by ensuring that most of them were paid their December salaries ahead of time. Some even received several months’ salary arrears that were owed them, and they are happy with their governors.”
The Forum also said the call by NLC for a probe of governors, who diverted bailouts, is a needless attempt by the leadership of labor to steer the public away from the promise by President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute another committee to review the minimum wage gridlock.

According to the NGF, governors have “collectively made it abundantly clear that they would have been happy to pay workers the N30,000 but times are hard and because of financial constraints and other limitations, many states cannot afford it, for now.”

It said that the governors had offered workers a token increment to the sum of N22,500 from the current N18,000 after the submission of the report of the Tripartite Committee set up by the president and headed by a retired Head of Service, Ms. Amma Pepple on October 6.

It said, “The N22,500 was arrived at, after extensive deliberations among all 36 governors, outlining their financial capacities and liquidity, considering the economic situation of the country and the states’ other obligations to majority of the people of their various domains.

“Governors also emphasised that N22,500 is a “baseline threshold,” meaning that any governor, who can pay more than N22,500 is, therefore, free to go ahead and do so.”
The NGF said governors had met with the president twice, all in an effort to resolve the issue of minimum wage.

It said, “To put the records straight, governors are not under any obligation, by law, to show their books to the NLC. But they have, in their pursuit of the understanding of the union, done so, not once, but several times over, with a view to letting NLC know that what they are asking for is neither realistic nor sustainable.
“Yet, NLC remains adamant that its will must be done, or the heavens will fall.”