Labour Draws Battle Line Over Minimum Wage Again

Organized Labour has given the Federal Government December deadline to commence payment of the N30,000 new national minimum wage to Nigerian workers.

This is even as feelers emerged that labour may resume its suspended nationwide strike in the next two weeks should the government continue to foot drag on the implementation of the report of the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage.

Besides, Labour warned that any reduction in the N30,000 agreed as contained in the committee’s report to President Muhammadu Buhari or any further delay in its passage would lead to devastating consequences.

The President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Bala Kaigama and the Secretary General of the Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN), Bashir Alade Lawal, gave the warning at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja yesterday.

They both warned that labour would not accept anything less than the N30,000 agreed by the Committee, as Nigerian workers patiently await President Buhari to forward an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for passage into law.

Kaigama stressed the urgent need to fast-track the implementation of the newly agreed national minimum wage.

Specifically, he said the expectation of labour is that the full implementation of the N30,000 would not exceed December.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige was not available for comment last night.

His mobile phone indicated it was switched off, while his Chief Press Secretary could not also be reached.

But the Deputy Director of Press in the ministry, Mr Samuel Olowookere said he could not comment on the threat by Labour.

“I cannot comment on what I don’t know, I can only speak on what I know with the permission to do so. All I know, which is known to everybody, is that the ministry has concluded its work on the minimum wage and my ‘Oga’ has submitted the report to the president. That is all I can say,” he said.

Though Kaigama stated that he would not preempt President Buhari that the N30,000 agreed through the process of tripartite negotiation could be reduced, he warned that the consequences of reducing or delaying its implementation would be very devastating.

“The Federal Government is advised to avoid any action that can delay or truncate the process of enacting the new Minimum Wage Act as the consequences of allowing that to happen can be very devastating.

“It is worthy of note that the single most important issue agitating the mind of an average Nigerian worker today is that of the new national minimum wage, the report of which was presented to Mr. President on Tuesday 6th November, 2018. It is apt to state that against all odds, the tripartite committee that negotiated the new minimum wage was able to scale all hurdles and agreed to the sum of N30,000 as the new minimum wage for the country.

“It is on this premise that I strongly want to appeal to the Federal Government to fast-track the process of enacting the new national minimum wage into law.

“Our expectation is that the government should be able to complete the entire process before the end of this year so that workers who have waited for so long can begin to enjoy a new lease on life provided by the newly agreed minimum wage.”

The TUC president also regretted that the core civil service, which is the engine room of government, is the least paid in the public service.

According to him, other segments have had their emoluments beefed up over the years.

Kaigama explained that even though civil servants, for instance, possess the same qualifications and experience as their counterparts in the parastatals and agencies, “yet, the salaries of these other employees are, in most cases, three times more than that of officers in the core ministries.”

The labour leader added: “This situation has been made worse by the fact that since 2010 when salary relativity was carried out in the core civil service, no salary increment has been granted to civil servants except for the N900 monthly that was added to the emoluments of senior officers across board after N18,000 was approved as the national minimum wage in 2011.”

Lawal said they were holding President Buhari to his words that he would send the report submitted to him to the National Assembly.

“The way we interpret the president speech is that he said he is going to forward Executive Bill to the National Assembly, and on that we stand. We are not going to accept five kobo drop on that N30,000; we are not going to accept it. We are not going to accept anything less that N30,000. Like I said earlier on, we have mobilised already, we only suspended (the strike). So, we will pick off from where we left. It is not going to be a difficult thing,” he said.

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