Labour wants govt to set benchmark for implementation of new minimum wage

*Organised labour.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

08 April 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Organised Labour has urged the Federal Government to put in place a benchmark for the implementation of the new National Minimum Wage, when it is finally agreed upon.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria made the call at the presentation of the report of the Technical Committee on Minimum Wage and Palliatives to the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal.

The President of the Trade Union Congress, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, said the benchmark was imperative as the minimum wage was neither about the ordinary person nor about the public sector alone.

Kaigama said, “If the states do their minimum wage, which group is going to do one for the private sector and the disadvantaged in the country? That goes to say that it must come from the Federal Government and it must cover all.

“So, the government should ensure that the benchmark for all employers is made as a law so that everybody in the country is carried along irrespective of the number of persons employed. We also hope that the committee will look into the idea being canvassed that minimum wage should not only be for workers in organisation of 50 staff and above.”

Kaigama called on the Federal Government to immediately address the problems facing civil servants even as it is giving bailout to state governments.

He frowned at claims by state governors that they have never been carried along in the process of negotiating for minimum wage.

He added: “On the issue of the minimum wage, we know that the state governors are only trying to be smart and there is no point in doing that. Your predecessors were involved in the process in the last exercises and now you deny that governors were not part of the negotiation.

“I hope that we all realise that constituting a minimum wage committee is not just coming for the inaugural meeting. It demands that you partake in every committee work in order for you to be part of the process, so that when the report is ready, everybody will be on the same page.”

The TUC president also called on the government to ensure that the report should not be consigned to the shelves.

Kaigama commended the Federal Government for giving the state governors bailout to meet pressing needs in their states, as he alleged that they (governors) were not using it for the desired purpose.

He added, “Again, there is the issue of the Paris Club refund to the governors; the first trench was released and now they are getting the second trench.

“We hope that this places a burden on them to ensure that the issue of arrears in salaries, pensions and gratuities are addressed.

“On the part of the Federal Government, we crave the indulgence of the government to ensure that they do not give bail out to only states when federal workers also have very serious problems.

“They have salary arrears, death benefits, promotion arrears, pension, government workers on contributory pension were yet to be paid for the past one year.”

Kaigama called on the government to use the committee’s report to address the salient issues that had been enumerated for the purpose of maintaining industrial harmony in the system.

Lawal, while receiving the report, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was committed to the welfare of workers in the country.

Lawal assured the organised labour that the committee’s report would be studied by the main committee and a memo would also be raised and submitted to Buhari for immediate action.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, while presenting the report, said the technical committee had recommended the setting up of a 29-member National Minimum Wage Committee.

Ngige added that the committee also recommended that the minimum wage committee should be headed by an accomplished Nigerian who was not a member of any of the political parties, but who is vast on issues on labour matters.

He said the minimum wage committee should be made up of eight representatives of the Federal Government, eight representatives of organised labour and eight representatives of employers of labour in the private sector.

The Minister added that the committee also recommended three representatives of state governors made up of one from the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum, one from the All Progressives Congress Governors Forum and one from the Nigeria Governors Forum.

“This composition will give the governors a voice since they have always complained that they are not carried along in the process of previous negotiations,” Ngige said.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, commended the Federal Government and members of the committee for the far reaching recommendations.

Wabba called on the Federal Government to ensure that the recommendations were duly implemented.

About the Author