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Minimum Wage: Governors’ comment if correct, is a recipe for serious industrial unrest – LABOUR

Organised Labour has faulted the statement credited to the governors through the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, that they were working on what individual states could sustainably pay as the new national minimum wage.

 

According to the Organised Labour, “If what is reported is correct or if the governors own up to the statement as reported, it is a recipe for serious industrial unrest”.

Labour contended that the governors must work within the 37-member committee saddled with the responsibility of fashioning out a new national minimum wage for the country.

It argued that it is being magnanimous with N615,000 new minimum wage’ demand because, based on the socioeconomic indices on the ground, it would have demanded much higher which the governors “are more than able to pay”.

Last Thursday, in a statement by the NGF Chairman and Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, at the end of NGF’s virtual meeting held Wednesday night, the governors said, among others, “As members of the committee, we are reviewing our individual fiscal space as State Governments and the consequential impact of various recommendations, to arrive at an improved minimum wage we can pay sustainably.

“We remain committed to the process and promise that better wages will be the invariable outcome of ongoing negotiations.”

Reacting to the statement, Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Dr Tommy Okon, remarked that Organised Labour believed the governors were misquoted.

“They can’t say that they are working on what individual states can pay. I think the governors may be talking about what they can add to the minimum wage at the end of the day because what will be agreed upon is the baseline which nobody should pay less than”, Okon said.

“But they can pay higher than that. I think that is what they are saying.

“They cannot be telling us that they are reviewing or setting up a committee to work on what they can pay individually. Two committees cannot be working on the same issue.

“The governors are members of the tripartite committee on the New National Minimum Wage, so they cannot set up another committee or work independently from the tripartite committee set up by the Federal Government.

“Maybe the governors are talking about implementation. It is right for the governors to set up an implementation committee. They need to know their staff’s strengths and sources of funds to implement the new wage.

“But to say that they are working on what individual states can pay outside the committee that the Federal Government has set up cannot be correct.

“Do not forget that the governors are members of the tripartite committee set up by the Federal Government. So, they cannot do anything outside the committee.

“If what is reported is correct or if the governors own up to the statement as reported, it is a recipe for serious industrial unrest.

“And no nation can accept that because any nation that works like that will face unprecedented industrial unrest and can never grow. No nation grows amid industrial chaos.

“We think the governors will tread with caution and avoid inflammatory utterances. We still believe the statement was not from them.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, pointed out that it has made a demand before the tripartite committee on the minimum wage and whatever the governors want to say should be brought to the negotiation table since they are members of the committee on the new minimum wage.

However, an official of NLC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, submitted that the governors are treading on dangerous ground that could set the nation’s industrial space on fire.

“You cannot be talking about reviewing what individual state can pay sustainably outside the committee set up to look out will be the baseline or minimum”, he said. “Whatever opinion you have is what you should bring to the negotiation table. You come to the negotiation table and argue your opinion.

“We do not want to trade words with the governors because they are members.

“(But) they are treading on a dangerous ground that can set the nation’s industrial space on fire.

“We have made our demand which is a very generous one from the breakdown we released on Thursday on the N615,000 demand.

“You can see that we have been very magnanimous. Several expenses, including basic things like recharge cards, entertainment, extended family and others, are missing.

“Don’t forget that this demand was a product of questionnaires we sent out to states and local governments. We did not manufacture it.

“Again, take the issue of electricity which we allocated N20,000 a month. At the time we did it, the electricity tariff had not been adjusted by about 300 per cent. With the adjustment, it has affected nearly every other thing in terms of inflation.

“We know the governors can do much more than what we are demanding. We have passed through this road before.

“The problem with the governors is that they place their aggrandizement far above public good and workers’ welfare.

“That many former governors are facing prosecution by the nation’s anti-graft agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is a pointer to the fact that governors have the resources to pay much higher than our demand.”

Recall, the Minister for State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, had, on Wednesday, while addressing workers at the May Day celebration in Abuja, said the new minimum wage would take effect from May 1, 2024.

But the NLC is arguing that it will take effect from April 19, 2024.

In a statement, NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said: “It has become imperative at this point that we inform Nigerians who may not have known already the foundations upon which our initial demand for a N615, 000 new National Minimum Wage is based.

“The figure was a product of a painstaking effort through which we captured the cost of living of Nigerian workers and masses in all parts of the country.

“It was essentially an outcome of independent research conducted by the NLC and TUC on the cost of meeting the primary needs of an average family around the country.

“Our research was based on a family with both parents alive and four children without the burden of having other dependents with them.

“A questionnaire was designed and sent to all the State Councils of NLC and TUC from where these questionnaires were sent to our members in all the local government areas in the country to gather the monthly cost of living for the average family as described above.

“However, it should also be noted that we have not included things like expenditure on calls and data, offerings in churches and Mosques, community dues, entertainment, savings and security etc.

“These are therefore just for the bare necessities.

“It should be noted that we arrived at this figure before the increase in electricity tariff and the recent scarcity of petrol across the nation leading to the appearance of long queues with attendant increased transport fares.

“Any figure below this amount becomes a starvation wage and condemns Nigerian workers and their families to perpetual poverty.

“We have to remember that the old one has expired on the 18th day of April 2024, and a new one is expected to have come into effect on the 19th day of April 2024. “However, because of the government’s inability to comply with the law that demanded negotiations for a new national minimum wage to have begun six months before the expiration of the existing one, concluding the new one has become unfortunately delayed.

“We are sure that our social partners would see our demonstration of understanding, sacrifice and reasonableness in our demands and thus accept this figure without much delay.

“We also enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to implore the government and employers to meet our demands for the sake of justice, equity and national development.”

 

 

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