Intrigues as new minimum wage faces uncertainty
Gloria Ehiaghe writes that the Federal Government’s reluctance to transmit the N30,000 new national minimum wage to the National Assembly, coupled with labour unions threats to shut down the country are among the intrigues plaguing the realisation of enhanced workers’ welfare in Nigeria.
The clamour for a new wage, which effectively began in 2017, has dragged up to 2019, at the peak of the general elections, which would undoubtedly shift the attention of Nigerians, who are now eagerly awaiting who emerges president and governors in the 36 states of the federation in the next general elections.
As it stands, the implementation of the new wage may not be feasible in the first quarter.The reality is that even when the bill is transmitted to the National Assembly on or before January 23, as claimed by the Federal Government, it will be subjected to public hearing and also whether the lawmakers would suspend the current political activities to entertain the bill.
As it is, uncertainties are already permeating the possibility of getting a new minimum wage before the polls. As at now, the Attorney-General of the Federation is yet to come up with an executive bill to be considered by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), National Economic Council (NEC), populated by the governors and then to the Council of States for ratification before heading to the National Assembly as an executive bill.
At a conciliatory meeting aimed at pacifying labour to shelve the proposed nationwide protests on January 8, over government’s failure to transmit the new national minimum wage bill to the National Assembly within one week, as agreed by the tripartite committee on new minimum wage, government delegation asked for about four weeks to enable them finish consultations before it would then forward the bill to the National Assembly.
Speaking after the January 7 meeting with labour, the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had informed that the Tripartite Committee’s recommendations would also be transmitted to FEC, NEC, and the Council of State, which comprises former presidents and Head of States for final ratification, and subsequently sent to the National Assembly for enactment into law.
The National Assembly members, who are on Christmas and New Year recess, are expected to resume on Wednesday, 16th January 2019. Ngige said: “We have made progress and tomorrow (Tuesday, January 8) we will know the definite date when the bill will be transmitted to the National Assembly. It has been difficult to arrive at a date because there are processes to follow on the bill. We have to go to the FEC with a council memo on the bill. After that, we will go to the NEC, and the Council of State.
“We can control the FEC date, the same with NEC, but for the National Council of State, the President has to look at his own time-table, and we inform past Heads of State.“This can take two weeks, but we are trying to see if we can accommodate all these meetings by next week because we cannot do Council of State meeting again this week. Immediately after that meeting (Council of State), we will transmit.”But some labour leaders had faulted the rationale for a protest and further meetings with government after a tripartite committee had concluded its report.
On the conciliatory meeting fixed with the leaders of organised labour on January 4, while leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), honoured the invitation, leaders of the United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC), stayed away, claiming that the three labour centres had on December 20, 2018, met in Lagos, and resolved that they would not attend any further meeting on the minimum wage with the government.
According to the President of ULC, Joe Ajaero, “we have already concluded in our meeting not to attend any further meetings on the minimum wage with the government. What we are only waiting for is for government to either transmit the new wage bill to the National Assembly or risk industrial unrest afterwards.”
Besides, labour leaders also faulted the 22-member technical committee inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari last week Wednesday, to work on the details and implementation of a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.The appointment of the advisory committee comes a day after the NLC held a nationwide protest over the wage demand.The committee’s terms of reference include proposing a work plan and modalities for implementation. It is headed by a popular economist, Bismark Rewane.
Organised labour, which described the committee as medicine after death, argued that as far as organised labour is concerned, the technical committee is an aberration to industrial labour relations, as it doesn’t have to do with minimum wage setting.However, government committed to an increase in the minimum wage provision has been made for in the 2019 budget.
The high-powered technical committee inaugurated by President Buhari was set up to advise on ways to: ensure sustainability of funding such that any consequential wage increase can be funded without increasing the level of borrowing.The committee will also implement such consequential wage increases in such a manner as to maximize any inflationary impact.The recommendations of the committee, where they require legislation, will be presented to the National Assembly for their consideration.
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