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Battle for new minimum wage

THIS year’s May Day anniversary  were dominated by agitations over pay rise by organized Labour nationwide. This was unlike 2009 when the deregulation issue was on the front burner.

With the theme: “50 years of Nationhood and the Working Class: Challenges of Good Governance, Unity and Credible Elections”, it came and went without any major untoward incident, unlike many countries of the world where workers had confrontations with law enforcement agents.

The agreement reached by representatives of workers, employers and government for  N18,000 national  minimum wage  amounts  to about 250 per cent of the current minimum wage of N5,500

The newly negotiated national minimum wage may fall short of the expectation of some workers but it has been duly negotiated and must be respected by all.

Workers must appreciate that N52, 500 demanded by the Nigeria Labour Congress was a demand which was bound to change during negotiations.  Other factors such as the financial ability of employers to pay the new wage must have been taken into consideration.

Representatives of labour too must have made a choice between pay rise for a few and job loss for majority.
In any negotiation parties must shift positions.

The recently concluded negotiation has been held in accordance with Convention 98 of the ILO on Collective Bargaining (Tripartism) which is the only acceptable way of bargaining for wages.

Since, government, employers and labour have agreed on N18,000, the nation should be saved any expansion of the unemployment queue, through retrenchment of workers  on the basis that employers cannot afford the new minimum wage.

However, pay rise alone cannot lift the living standard of workers or indeed all Nigerians.  Government needs to provide more infrastructure to propel the economy to high productivity. One of such is power.

Government must ensure that power is available as this would not only protect existing jobs but will create more job opportunities.

On their part, workers must justify their pay.  There must be an end to attitude of “ Government work, not my father’s job” .

Workers must justify their pay with higher productivity.  To whom much is given, much is expected.

Now that a final solution has been found, pay adjustment in the public sector, with the introduction of a  self_adjusting mechanism of salary administration in the public sector, the nation has been saved from incessant strikes in the public sector.

Ag. President, Goodluck Jonathan deserves commendation for his support for the introduction of a pay adjustment mechanism.

A major point of conflict in previous negotiations has been government’s blatant refusal to honour negotiated agreements.

This time around, the three parties must honour the new agreement on National Minimum Wage.

Very important is the need to work out a viable, self-adjusting mechanism of salary administration in order to ward off the frequent disruptions occasioned by costly strikes and threat of strikes.

As we get ready for our 50th independence celebrations, Nigeria should evolve a means of stabilising relations between Labour and employers to avoid the problems of both sides being at each other’s throats as a result of neglect in adjusting workers’ remuneration to current realities.


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