NLC, TUC Take Protest to National Assembly over Minimum Wage

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  • Your grievances will be addressed, Says Doguwa

By Udora Orizu

Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), Wednesday protested at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja, demanding that the lawmakers should kill the Bill seeking to move the minimum wage from the Exclusive Legislative list to the Concurrent list to allow states determine minimum wage based on capacity.

The angry protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as, ”On National Minimum Wage We Stand”, “Kill the Bill”, “No To Minimum Wage on Concurrent List, Yes To Minimum Wage on Exclusive List” and “Shame on Garba Datti.”

The House of Representatives had on February 23, despite opposing views from some lawmakers passed for second reading a Bill seeking to amend the 1999 constitution to allow states determine minimum wage.

Item 34 on the exclusive legislative list places labour, including trade unions, industrial relations; conditions, safety and welfare of labour; industrial disputes; prescribing a national minimum wage for the federation or any part thereof; and industrial arbitration on the federal government.

The sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Garba Datti (APC, Kaduna), leading the debate said the Bill is part of the devolution of powers, which allows states to determine minimum wage based on capacity.

He noted that states should determine what they can pay, instead of the national minimum wage that most states are not complying with.

But, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who led the protesters, described the Bill as dirty and anti-workers, vowing that they are going to reject it.

He faulted the argument that the reason
they want the issue of national minimum wage to be moved to the concurrent list is because they want federalism.

Wabba said: ”We have a written document signed by the President of NLC and President of TUC, itemising our protests and complaints, to be submitted to the representatives of the Speaker and the Senate President. We are here today on behalf of the Nigerian workers, pensioners, downtrodden, to make it clear and unambiguous that the bill that seeks to remove the minimum wage from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List is not accepted.

”In the countries of the world today, we have 26 federal nations that have minimum wage in their Exclusive List, including the United States of America. So, the argument that it is about federalism is false. The last minimum wage of N30,000 was also negotiated. We negotiated for six months.

“Our demand was N66,500, using empirical data of the purchasing power of Nigerian workers that would be eroded. So, we eventually reached an agreement of N30,000. How then can we degenerate to remove an issue that the workers have earned through hard labour for 40 years? And they want to remove it overnight.”

Addressing the protesters, the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Ado Doguwa,
assured them that their grievances will be addressed.

Doguwa, who represented the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the green chamber will create room for fair hearing through public hearing on the proposed legislation.

He advised members of the union to lobby their constituency representatives to ensure that when that time comes, the Bill will be killed.

Doguwa said: ”I say big thank you to organized labour, and its members, for making the decision to come and air their grievances in the right quarter. You are in the right hands and space, this institution is a representation of the general public. May I say on behalf of the entire members of the House of Representatives that we are also by extension members of the organized labour. I say so because 360 members of the House are your employees, you employed us through voting and in various ballot boxes across the country. When you’re are happy we are happy, when you’re sad we are sad.

”We have accepted the letter signed by your President and I assure you we will give it the right treatment. It’s clear to the leadership that organized labour are against that Bill, and if you’re against that bill then you’re right and I assure you the House of Representatives will give you fair hearing, we will listen to grievances.

“Your position will be heard at the committee level. The members representing your constituencies will be on the ground that day to do justices to the bill. I understand your position is to kill the bill, so I advise that lobby your representatives that you elected to ensure that the bill is killed.”