By Victor Ahiumayoung
Organised labour and organised private sector (OPS) said, yesterday, they would resist plots by governors to achieve re-opening of negotiations on the new minimum wage of N30,000.
Their reaction came against the backdrop of a closed-door meeting the governors held with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa on Monday, where they sought a renegotiation of the N30,000 minimum wage agreed by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage set up by the President.
Six governors, led by Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, attended the meeting on behalf of their colleagues.
Aside from telling the President they could not pay the N30,000 new minimum wage, the governors also asked for increase in their allocations from the federation account, if they must pay the new wage, adding that they could only afford to pay N22,500.
They also threatened to downsize.
Reacting to the governors’ request for a re-opening of negotiations on the N30,000 minimum wage recommended by the committee, President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, insisted the issue of renegotiation was out of the question.
According to him, what is on the table is the implementation of the recommendation of the Tripartite Committee, which is N30,000.
Wabba said: “The N30,000 recommended by the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage is non-negotiable. We have passed the stage of negotiations. We are in the stage of implementation.
“The committee’s work lasted for about one year and during the course of its work, the committee requested for memorandum from every state government, of which 21 responded in writing.
“The committee also held public hearings in the six zones of the federations, where state governments were also written a customised letter to make presentations.
“As we speak, Edo State is paying N25,000 minimum wage, against the current N18,000 minimum wage; Akwa Ibom, N22,000. I was in Ekiti State a few days ago, where I was told that Ekiti State is paying about N19,000.
“We know that the governors can pay and the earlier they accept that, the better.
“Some have argued that each state should be allowed to negotiate and determine its minimum wage in the spirit of federalism.
“This argument is not only based on ignorance, but wicked and unsustainable.”
TUC, ULC, OPS
Similarly, President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Bobboi Kaigama, insisted that such demand of the governors for a renegotiation was belated.
He said: “The governors were part of the process. If they failed to take advantage of the process, sorry to them. As far as we are concerned, the negotiations have ended and we have submitted our report to Mr. President and forging ahead.
“We are waiting for the President to do the needful and send a draft bill to the National Assembly.
“If the governors have any case, they should go to the National Assembly where there will public hearing on it. To reopen negotiations is totally out of it, because we cannot go back. We have gone beyond negotiations. That is our position.”
Speaking in a similar vein, President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, Joe Ajaero, said there was nothing to renegotiate, asking the Federal Government to start the process of implementation.
Ajaero said: “The governors were part of the negotiations. We believe the governors and the Presidency are one in this. If they are singing discordant tunes, it shows the problem in the polity.
“Nevertheless, which reopening of negotiation are they asking for? If seriously they want renegotiation, then they must ensure that both negotiations and commen-cement of payment date end in November.
“In that case, we will go back to our initial demand to begin negotiations. Seriously speaking, these people should not take us for a ride with their time wasting. Elections are approaching, we have said the elections will be based on the N30,000 minimum wage.”
Also, the Organised Private Sector, OPS, dismissed any talk of reopening negotiations.
Speaking through the Director General-designate, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Mr. Olawale Timothy, OPS said: “Negotiations ended when we submitted our recommendation to the President.
“If the President is consulting with the governors, it is because he wants to carry them along. We do not have control over that. But to think of reopening negotiations, the governors must be living in another world.”