Minimum Wage: Presidency Moves to Appease Labour

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige

Asks govs to plug waste to accommodate workers’ demand
Pleads with NLC for more time to resolve logjam

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Following Nigerian Labour Congress’ (NLC) threat to call out workers on indefinite strike on Tuesday to protest non-implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage recommended by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, the presidency has moved to pacify the workers, appealing to them to tarry a while on their planned action.

The NLC had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to submit the N30,000 minimum wage implementation bill to the National Assembly for passage by December 31 last year or face a nationwide strike action.

With the deadline unmet, the NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, had said the Tuesday strike had become imminent despite a federal government offer for a resolution meeting schedule for January 8.

Authoritative presidency sources, however, told THISDAY Wednesday that the president is making efforts to resolve the wage dispute, which threatens to further obstruct the nation’s fragile economy should the strike hold.
State governors under the auspices of Nigerian Governors Forum had objected to N30,000 as the baseline wage bill for the federation on the grounds that most of the states could not afford it.

Offering N22,500, the governors said anything more would send most of the states into insolvency.
But labour disagreed, contending that N30,000 was a compromised figured, which if diligently pursued would be realisable.

Buhari, according to THISDAY sources, had intervened, asking the governors to reconsider their stand and find ways of acceding to the workers’ demand.

“The president met with the representatives of the governors and appealed to them to plug areas of waste as a way of securing the funds to meet the workers’ demand,” a source told THISDAY.

He said the governors had agreed to heed the advice of the president and had gone back to evaluate their finances, adding that what was needed was some more time for the governors to report progress to the president.

“Certainly, the governors need to come back to the president with their revised position before he could proceed to the National Assembly with an implementation bill,” another presidency source told THISDAY.

Stating that time, though now a scarce commodity, was what was needed to resolve the logjam, he explained that even if the president was minded to proceed to the National Assembly with the bill as requested by labour, the federal legislators had been on Christmas break, adding that there was no way the NLC’s demand could have been met.

“The National Assembly had been on break. And so, even if the president is to overrule the governors on this, there is no way the National Assembly can reconvene before the Friday deadline given by labour,” he said.

Wabba had called on the federal government wednesday to urgently transmit the bill on the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly for a speedy passage.

He said, “It is unfortunate that the federal government is yet to transmit to the National Assembly an executive bill for the enactment of N30,000 as the new national minimum wage.

“Government’s dilly-dallying on the issue has strained government-labour relations with a potential for a major national strike, which could just be days away.

“I want to appeal to the government to do the needful by urgently transmitting the bill on the new national minimum wage to the National Assembly.

“We also would like to use this same opportunity to urge workers to fully mobilise for a prolonged national strike and enforce their right.”

Explaining that the strike would become inevitable as the last option for labour, the NLC president called on all Nigerians and businesses to understand and support it.

He, however, assured workers that their labour, patience and diligence would not be in vain.
Wabba said the NLC leadership remains committed to giving all it takes to ensure workers get just and fair wages in a decent work environment appropriate to their well-being.

He added that the NLC leadership is similarly committed to social protection for workers.
According to him, “The new year presents great opportunities for workers, pensioners, civil society allies and their friends and families to put their numbers to good use.

“This is by voting out, not on the basis of tribe or religion but purely policy, any candidate that cannot serve their interest.

“In the year that is ahead of us, the NLC remains unequivocally committed to the national and workers’ goals which include the campaign for industrialisation, against selective enforcement of “No Work, No Pay” policy of government, among others.”

The N30,000 new minimum wage, which was a compromise figure arrived at by the Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee comprised of the government (federal and states), organised private sector and the organised public sector was contained in the report forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari. Labour had initially proposed N66, 500, while the federal government proposed N24,500 at the negotiation meeting before the N30,000 was adopted.

However, wednesday the federal government said it would meet with the union on Friday.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said government had invited executives of the organised labour for a meeting at the Conference Hall of the ministry.

General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said the labour had received letter from the labour ministry for a meeting on Friday.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has issued a notice to all its structures and organs to commence mobilisation for mass action against the federal government, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP).

This was contained in a statement signed by the association’s president, Danielson Akpan.
The ASUU commenced a nationwide strike on November 4 after the lecturers accused the federal government of not implementing previous agreements.

The association had earlier issued an ultimatum of two weeks to the federal government, ASUU and ASUP on December 23, to call off the strike or face confrontation.