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Minimum wage: FG, NLC flex muscle

By Bisi Olominu
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The fragile Nigeria economy will be under a great threat once again from January 8,2019 as the Nigeria Labour Congress and its allied will go on a rally to press home their demand for a new minimum wage of N30,000.

The tripartite committee put in place by the federal government had settled for the new minimum wage of N30,000 but the Nigeria Governors’ Forum has cried out that their states economy could not go beyond N22,500. The Governors based their inability to pay to hard times ongoing in the country. The Forum speaking through its Head of Media, Abdulrazaque Bello Barkindo said that due to financial constraints and other limitations, many states could not afford it now. He added that the insinuation by the NLC Secretary in an interview that governors were refusing to pay the N30,000 national minimum wage as demanded was misleading.

The governors also stated pointedly that having made a marginal increment of N22,500 from the current N18,000, they had nothing more to add to the minimum wage and it was left for the NLC to consider and accept that as what was available and possible now.

The labour unions have replied the governors that anyone of them that could not pay the new amount would be voted out in the coming elections. The unions also asked the governors to shed their weight and reduced their security votes and overhead costs.

The NLC also frowned at the President Mohammadu Buhari’s proposed establishment of a technical committee to look into the new minimum wage issue. The union asked Nigerians to blame the Buhari led government for the looming strike over the N30,000 minimum wage.

The coming rally will badly affect the economy if it is not averted. If it is averted, it saves Nigeria N5.6billion daily loses. The awaited monumental loss was what made the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, to cry out that the present economy of the country could not afford that, it would collapsed totally.

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The association in Lagos pleaded with the Federal Government to immediately send a draft bill on the N30,000 new national minimum wage to the National Assembly, NASS, for passage into law to save the nation from the consequences of the rally planned by Organised Labour on January 8, 2019.

The umbrella body for private employers in the country, while decrying the indecisive disposition of the Federal Government towards concluding the process leading to the implementation of a new National Minimum Wage, insisted that “this delay in the completion of the process has led to the proposed strike by labour, which is totally undesirable and should be avoided.”

In a statement its Director General, Mr. Timothy Olawale, NECA said: “Globally, there is a recognized and acceptable process of setting a National Minimum Wage as enshrined in the International Labour Organisation, ILO, Convention 131. This process had been adopted in previous National Minimum Wage setting in Nigeria and was meticulously applied by the National Minimum Wage Committee inaugurated by the President in December, 2017. It was expected that following the submission of the National Minimum Wage Committee’s Report to the President on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, expedited action would be taken in transmitting a bill to the National Assembly as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari.”

“The President had promised to transmit an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time. It is, therefore worrisome that seven weeks after the submission of the Committee’s Report, government is planning to subject the Report to another Technical Committee, unknown to the process of setting minimum wage. This delay in the completion of the process has led to the proposed strike by labour, which is totally undesirable and should be avoided.”

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Concerned about the negative implication of the proposed strike in January 2019, he continued: “It is worrisome that as a nation whose economy is still reeling under the effects of recent recession, government would needlessly further drag the economy into avoidable abyss. The colossal loss borne by businesses during the warning strike in September, 2018 was yet to be recovered and further disruption of business activities might sound the death knell for many enterprises.”

He averred that with the rate of unemployment as recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, it was expected that all hands would be on deck to ensure the continuous survival of businesses.

To avert labour rally and the attendant consequences, he urged that “the President should, without delay, transmit an Executive Bill to the National Assembly as promised to enable it finalise the process leading to the enactment of a new National Minimum Wage Act. Businesses and the economy at large cannot afford another avoidable strike.”

He noted that the private sector, which is supposed to be the engine-room of national development, is usually the victim of such strikes. “Businesses are presently encumbered by several challenges and any avoidable labour action at the beginning of the year or any time whatsoever would be counter-productive, disruptive and would not be welcomed.”

Also lending his voice to the debate, a veteran labour leader in Ondo State, Pastor Oyekan Arije described the yet to be approved N30,000 national minimum wage as “a slave wage”.

” When they started the present N30,000 minimum wage which they started with N65,000, and later came down to N30,000, I would even call that slave wage. In 1981, May, we had the first minimum wage act in the country, and the minimum wage was N125 per month, at that time, one dollar was 64kobo,big you convert N125 to dollar, it was $195.3, at the rate of N360 to the US dollar. Today that N125 is worth over N70,000, so I don’t see any hullabaloo with N30,000 minimum wage that the governors are saying it is too much. To me it is inadequate.

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Meanwhile, to avert the mass rally to protest over the non implementation of the new minimum wage by the organized labour unions on Tuesday, the federal government had last Friday entered into a meeting with the unions.

The minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige led the federal government team.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma were part of the Federal Government team.

The meeting was aimed at averting the planned nationwide industrial action proposed by Labour Unions over the new wage.

The labour leaders are insisting that the executive must pass the N30,000 new minimum wage structure as agreed to by the presidential tripartite committee, to the National Assembly or risk a resumption of the strike it had healier suspended .

Another meeting with the labour leaders is slated for today in Abuja.

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Minimum wage: FG, NLC flex muscle

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