…NLC’s rival rejects N56,000 proposal
…Fears stalemate over non-salary-paying govs in committee raised by Buhari
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Johnbosco Agbakuru
Following the perceived dominance of governors who owe workers’ salaries representing Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, in the 30-man committee inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari to fashion out a new national minimum wage, there are fears that the road to a fresh wage regime may not be easy.
In fact, organised labour has advised workers to prepare for war to make the new minimum wage a reality, warning that there could be a stalemate and protracted negotiations.
While the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, had, since two years ago, demanded for a N56,000 new minimum wage, United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, on its part, demanded for N90,000.
Meanwhile, the NLC has given indication that it will ask for more than N56,000, whereas the ULC is saying even N100,000 minimum wage will not be enough considering the indices and socio-economic realities on the ground.
The leaders of organised labour, represented by NLC and ULC, yesterday, took a suspicious look at the representatives of the NGF on the national minimum wage committed raised by the President, last week.
The governors in the committee are Rochas Okorocha of Imo State; Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; Hassan Dankwambo, Gombe State; Simeon Lalong of Plateau State and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State
The committee headed by a former Head of Service of the Federation, Ama Pepple, has membership drawn from the government, the private sector and the Organised Labour.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard on the issue, the President of the ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said: “The presence of these governors in the committee, the fact that some of those representing the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, are mainly those who are not paying salaries and pensions speaks volume. In fact, we fear a stalemate because these governors represent anti-salary payment. They may be coming to justify why there should not be increment in salary.
These are governors who have not been able to pay the N18,000 minimum wage. They may be coming to tell you that the governors cannot bear the extra burden of salary increment.
“Surely, they have no moral justification to be in the committee unless it was by design by the NGF for these governors to represent the group. If that is the case, then the governors have an agenda to frustrate the emergence of a new national minimum wage. Therefore, we foresee protracted negotiations . As Organised Labour, we have to prepare for war; a long time battle to confront these governors because they do not want to pay even anything. However they come, we will engage them and ensure that the yearning of workers for a living wage, not just a minimum wage, is met. We have all the indices to justify our demand for even N100,000 minimum wage because the socio-economic condition, the inflation, the cost of living, the depreciation of the Naira and so on, are there for every body to see.”
Similarly, speaking through its General Secretary, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, the NLC said it was not unmindful of the dominance of governors that are owing salaries and pensions representing the NGF.
“We noticed the dominance of these governors in the representation of the NGF. The principle of tripartitism is that each party is free to choose its representative. So, the Governors’ Forum has chosen its representatives, there is nothing we can do about that. Yes, we noticed that most of those representing the governors are those owing salaries and pension.
But we still have the governor of Plateau State, who inherited a backlog of salaries on assumption of office, has not only cleared all the arrears, he is paying as and when due. We advise other governors to learn from him. So, his presence in the committee is a plus. Nevertheless, we will engage the committee with facts and figures, we will engage the committee and address issues as they come. We are prepared, Ozo-Eson said.
“We have equally said it publicly that, at the time we presented our demand for N56,000 new minimum wage, we did so with the indices on ground two years ago. Today, those indices are different based on the socio-economic reality on ground.
Today, a lot of things have taken place. There is high inflation, there is depreciation of the Naira, there is general high cost of living and there is the exchange rate factor. We expect the committee to look at these issues and aggregate things. We hope this committee will function like the last one. The last one even commissioned sub-committees to look at the socio-economic indices on the ground before arriving at the present minimum wage.”
Textile workers demand speedy negotiation
In a related development, workers in the textile industry have pleaded with the minimum wage committee to fast-track negotiations for a new wage, to recover lost time, saying workers will not have patience for unnecessary delays.
Speaking through the General Secretary of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, and a member of the National Executive Council, NEC, of NLC, Issa Aremu, the workers commended the inauguration of the minimum wage review committee.
“The five year cycle of the current Minimum Wage Act legally backing the subsisting negotiated minimum wage of N18000 signed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010 was due for negotiation in 2015, two years ago. The historic inauguration once again demonstrates the globally acknowledged concern of President Muhammadu Buhari to the welfare of the workers and citizens in general as contained in 1999 constitution.
History will record it that at a time some state governors unacceptably defaulted in paying workers as and when due, the President commendably wondered aloud to ask how these governors go to bed while for whatever reasons their workforce are not paid. President Buhari also went further to work his fatherly concern through serial bail outs of the defaulting states”, Aremu said.
Also speaking, yesterday, the National President of Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigerian (MHWUN), Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, said Labour had a trusted leadership that will not allow government to use the minimum wage issue as a means of scoring political point.
“We are certain that should government try to employ delay tactics for any selfish gain, our leadership will pull out”, he said.
Josiah, who was fielding questions from journalists in Abuja at a reception ceremony organised by the Association of Medical Laboratory Technicians and Assistants of Nigeria (AMELTAN) in his honour said the NLC had made its demand known and was not likely going to change the position.