New minimum wage uncertain as government fails to raise panel
• Ondo AG taken to bank over unpaid salaries
• Taraba workers picket SSG, others
• Buhari asks govs to pay workers
A new national minimum wage being proposed by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) may not come early as the Federal Government is yet to constitute the committee on the issue.
Citing the United States of America’s example of wage increment when in recession, some stakeholders have argued that increasing the minimum wage would increase consumers’ consumption that would also have ripple effects on the redistribution of wealth and creation of jobs.
But if the minimum wage is not increased, the purchasing power of the workers will drastically fall, leading to severe suffering in 2017 due to inability to purchase basic necessities of life and meet other financial obligations.
Commenting on the issue in Abuja, President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba said labour had through a notice made its intention known to commence negotiation on the minimum wage.
“By law and practice, the law is due for review after five years in operation. We have told the Federal Government that we cannot guarantee industrial peace any longer if necessary steps are not taken over the issue.
“The committee has not been constituted up till now. What we have in place is the committee working on the petrol price increase palliative. What the committee is considering is the structure of minimum wage committee. But the committee to discuss and negotiate minimum wage committee has not been set up till date.”
The NLC boss hinted that the committee on the palliative had concluded its report and will submit it to the Federal Government soon.Wabba disagreed that the response of labour movement to the review of the minimum wage after 20 months is slow and that labour has lost relevance in the defence of the working Nigerians.
“If you look at the history, particularly on the welfare of workers, despite the challenges and a lot of factors struggling to undermine our strength, Nigerians should commend labour for staying true to the struggle of fighting the course of the workers. The way the minimum wage law works is that there must be a presentation by labour to government, which we have done. The inclusion of minimum wage in the work of the committee on palliative was a result of our struggle against fuel price increment,” Wabba said.
He dismissed the claim of lack of money to fund wage increment. “Let no one deceive Nigerians that the reason government does not want to increase salary is because there is no money. That is not an argument that can be sustained. We may recall that when the United States was in economic recession, it increased wages to boost consumer spending and they moved out of recession within months. Government must move beyond these lame and worn-out arguments.”
The Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, Dr. Otive Igbuzor described the current minimum wage in Nigeria as scandalous. “That a national minimum wage cannot buy a bag of rice is unacceptable. Who can survive on N18, 000 in Nigeria of today? There is the need for the restructuring of the entire system.
” Any government that wants to accelerate development focuses on education, health, infrastructure and agriculture. What goes on today is that there is 30 per cent for capital projects while 70 per cent of our budget is used for administrative purposes. We are using 70 per cent to administer 30 per cent. Does that make any sense?” he asked.
On why the presidency did not make provision for likely wage increase, an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity gave the non-constitution of the minimum wage panel as well as the continuation of the panel on palliative as reasons for the omission.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige acknowledged that the demand for a new minimum wage by labour is a legitimate call.Ngige, who stated this recently in Abuja while receiving the executive members of the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA), hinted that government was carefully studying the proposal and would respond to it appropriately.
As the agitation for wage increase gathered momentum, workers in Ondo State yesterday forced the Accountant-General (AG), Mr. Felix Ajibokun to begin the process of paying them one month salary to celebrate Christmas.
The aggrieved workers, who were led by the Chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), Mr. Sunday Adeleye, the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mrs. Bosede Daramola and other union leaders, stormed the AG’s office at Alagbaka over unpaid six months salaries.
According to them, the state government had ordered the AG to pay them one month salary to enable them to celebrate Christmas.The Guardian learnt that Ajibokun, who is expected to retire from service today, had allegedly refused to commence the payment.
Adeleye, while speaking with reporters, said the union leaders recently met Governor Olusegun Mimiko and they both resolved that the workers should be paid a month’s salary.
The embattled AG, who looked ruffled after he was taken in a union vehicle to one of the banks in the metropolis, declined to speak with journalists, saying his concern was the payment of the workers’ salaries.
Also yesterday, workers in Taraba State barricaded all the entrances leading to the state secretariat protesting against government’s failure to pay workers as at when due.
During the protest which brought together workers from the NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and other unions, the secretary to the state government, head of service, commissioners and permanent secretaries were denied access to their offices.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the 33 state governors to settle all outstanding workers’ entitlements with at least 25 percent of refunds made to them from the excess deductions of the external debt service.
The president has already approved the release of N552.74 billion to be paid in batches to all the affected states being owed. The states are expected to receive 25% of their approved sums in the first instance before this week runs out.