…It’s to protect vulnerable employers – NECA
…No, every worker deserves minimum wage — Labour
Stories by Victor Young
Last week, Vanguard published a report of the exemption of some workers from the N30,000 minimum wage largesse as contained in the Bill sent to President Muhammadu Buhari by the National Assembly for assent.
In this edition, stakeholders including some members of the Tripartite Committee on New Minimum Wage, speak on the issue.
Those who spoke are President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, and General Secretary of National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE; Joe Ajaero. Director-General of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale; Secretary General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Bashir Lawal and Vice President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and General Secretary of Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, Prince Peters Adeyemi.
According to the President of ULC: “The existing Minimum Wage Act talks about 50 thresholds, and if the Bill awaiting Presidential assent talks about 25, then it is an improvement and more progressive. But we are looking at a situation where a ceiling no longer exists so that if you employ one worker, even it is a domestic worker, you should pay him or her the prevailing national minimum wage. This is what is obtainable in other countries of the world. Domestic workers are protected under the minimum wage.
“So, if you have one domestic worker, it could be a security man, it should be covered by the minimum wage law. We need to continue the campaign to totally remove the ceiling because a worker is a worker. The fact that they are 100 in one place, does not reduce the prices of goods in the market. Every worker goes to the same market whether he or she is working with 100,0000 persons in a factory or working alone with the employer. So, the basis for saying whether it is 50 or 25, should not be there in the first place. The minimum wage should be for every worker irrespective of the number at a particular work environment.
On his part, NECA Director-General said: “The 25 threshold is part of the recommendation of the tripartite committee; it was not contrived by the legislature. It is to protect and take into considerations the interest of small medium and micro enterprises who ordinarily especially those who are in the informal sector that might find it difficult or struggle to implement the new minimum wage. So, it is not new. It was discussed and debated upon and everybody agreed to it at the plenary.”
But ASCSN Secretary-General said: “As far as the committee is concerned, what it did was to remove the ceiling so that all employers of Labour will be affected. So, we put a caveat allowing those employers that might have difficulty in one way or the other, within the ambit of the law to make an application to the appropriate agencies of government, in this case, the Minister of Labour and Employment, to ask for an exemption. Such application will be treated on merit by the Minister in consultation with the National Labour Advisory Council, NLAC, as regards to any employer that comes forward to complain that he or she cannot pay the minimum wage. The criteria have been spelt out in the draft we did.
“What we did was supposed to be a recommendation to government. I can tell you that what we did was fine as we have removed the ceiling. So, if you as an employer believes that the nature of your job, and by the revenue generation, output and so on, you will not be able to pay the new minimum wage, you apply to appropriate agencies of government to look at it whether it is justifiable. If it is Justifiable, they will grant you your exemption. That was what we recommended.”
For NLC Vice President, “I cannot readily give you the accurate recommendation, but I know we were even saying that every employer of Labour should pay the minimum wage. We were even talking about the situation where there are some Lawyers’ Chambers who earn so much but employ about five or six persons. So, we argued that we cannot use the number of employees to determine whether somebody can pay or not because there are some private employers, individuals who earn so much that employ fewer workers.
“Before, the threshold was 50 and Labour was pushing for the total removal of the number and employers were pushing for a ceiling. I think we now came down to a lower figure. I served in the same committee with NECA former Director General, Mr. egun Osinowo and we recommended a complete removal. There were issues about those who work in the Agricultural sector and they that would also be affected. But at the end of the day, the conclusion was that you cannot completely remove the threshold.
“There is also the argument that those who cannot pay should apply to the Minister of Labour and Employment, who will now discuss with other groups. These groups are supposed to be members of the National Labour Advisory Council whether they can qualify for an exemption or not. In fact, there was the issue that those who want exemption can apply to the Minister of Labour and the Minister in consultation with the National Labour Advisory Council will consider such application on its merit.”