By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Johnbosco Agbakwuru, reporting Geneva, Switzerland
INDICATIONS emerged, yesterday, in Geneva, Switzerland, of a looming showdown between organised labour and the Federal Government over the September deadline for the commencement of the new minimum wage.
While organised labour, as represented by Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, insisted that September deadline was sacrosanct, the Federal Government said it was not realizable.
Addressing the 107th Session of the International Labour Conference, ILC, in Geneva, President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the ongoing process on the new wage must be concluded and implementation begins in September as earlier agreed.
Defending this position while speaking to journalists at the conference, Wabba said: “I have told you that at the tripartite committee, we all committed to a timetable and timeline which is known and everybody is aware of it.
But speaking to journalists, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, insisted September deadline was not possible, noting that the Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee, working on it would only complete its work on or September and submit to the government.
He said: “The truth of the matter is that there is a work programme for the minimum wage committee. And by that schedule of work, we are supposed to terminate our own work in that committee first week of September. After you have done that, you will now take your recommendation to government.
“After doing that, the executive arm of government will take your recommendation to the Federal Executive Council because it concerns those in states, people in the state will now take it to National Economic Council, which is the council in charge of the economy of Nigeria.
“So these bodies will then look at the recommendation and then forward the final distillate to the National Assembly. It is the National Assembly that has power to make laws. But we can forward to them as executive bills. That is what the constitution says. So, I do not see all these taking place in September. That was why I said the date of September for a worker to receive new minimum wage is not feasible.”
The minister however, expressed optimism that if the process was fast tracked before the end of the year, the new wage would be implemented by 2019, adding “That is not to say if everyone puts in their best and we put it on a fast track, we cannot consummate it before the end of the year. And when we consummate it before the end of the year, it has to be budgeted for. So, the money will go in either as supplementary budget or 2019 budget.”