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Members speak on expectations as minimum wage c’ttee reconvenes

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Victor Ahiuma-Young

TODAY, the 30-man tripartite national minimum wage, NMW, committee will reconvene possibly to complete work on a new NMW, after its unilateral adjournment by the Federal Government through Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who is its Deputy Chairman.

Recall that the adjournment which organised labour described as sine die, was one of the reasons for the  14-day ultimatum to government tha eventually led to a nationwide strike last week.

File: Minimum wage

Giving the ultimatum at a joint  briefing in Lagos,  Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, had asked government to reconvene the meeting of the committee and announce its figure or risk a nationwide strike.

Labour leaders contended that Ngige’s announcement of the adjournment of the meeting came at a time the committee was finalizing its work of arriving at a definite figure for submission to Government.

Reading a joint statement by the three Labour centres, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said among others: “We view his latest pronouncement with great concern, suspicion and outrage.

This new antic certainly is not acceptable to Nigerian workers who had expected a  new national minimum wage since 2016 but who out of uncommon sacrifice and patriotism, hearkened to government’s appeal and the process was delayed. You may wish to recollect that the NMW committee was inaugurated in November 2017 but commenced work in March 2018 with timelines to deliver on its mandate of arriving at a new NMW in August/ September 2018.

At the expiration of ultimatum, organised labour called out its members for a nationwide strike and it was in the cause of the strike that government annouced a recovening of the meeting.

Ahead of today’s meeting, some members of the committee spoke to Vanguard on their expectations.

The General Secretary of NLC, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson said: “We expect the work of the committee to be completed and a figure agreed by the committee, and submitted to the government. We expect that as we meet between Thursday and Friday, we will adopt a figure, that was where we were before the process was interrupted by the Minister (Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige).

We expect to agree on a figure on the table and make recommendations to government. Whether the Federal Government brings its figure or not, is not important. What is important is that the committee agrees on a figure on the table and recommend same to government.

Similarly, Secretary-General of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Bashir Alade-Lawal said: “We expect that the committee rounds up the exercise and government comes with its figure this time around.

Not just any figure, but a realistic figure knowing where we are coming from and taking into cognizance the hardship and the suffering the workers have been going through in the midst of increasing inflationary trend and depreciating value of the nation’s currency.”

Also, Director-General-designate, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, Mr. Timothy Olawale, said: “We hope to have the position of both the federal and state governments on the NMW figure just as we’ve had for private sector employers.

We also hope we should be able to conclude the work of the committee so we can submit our report to the president.”

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