NLC, Ngige trade words over minimum wage
Pensioners seek payment of 33% increment
The declaration of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that the Federal Government is stalling the commencement of the new minimum wage has drawn the ire of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.
While speaking at the women commission delegates’ conference in Abuja, the President of NLC, Wabba Ayuba had accused the Federal Government of deliberately foot-dragging on the convocation of a committee for the negotiation of a new minimum wage citing rising inflation and devaluation of the Naira as developments that fuel the need for a fresh wage for Nigerian workers.
His words: “… As you must have had we have also submitted a request for an upward review of the National Minimum Wage which was signed into law in 2011 by President Jonathan, to the present administration, Despite the fact that the minimum wage was due for renegotiation after five years, the current administration is dragging its feet in constituting a tripartite committee as is the practice to negotiate a new minimum wage. Against the background of the harsh economic times and the impact on the working people, we cannot wait indefinitely for government to respond at its own time.
Though we have been told by the administration that the panel will be constituted, we enjoined the government to urgently sort out whatever is the constraint it is facing and act on the matter before we are forced to take actions that may be unpleasant.”
Ayuba held that in the last 12 or more months, the inflationary trend in the economy has gone over the roof, and the salaried and the teeming millions of the unemployed, are facing very difficult times.
He further lamented: “Amidst these difficulties we have contended with a number of state governments that have misplaced priorities and have regularly refused to pay workers in the State pay roll, their salaries as at when due. Similarly pension, of retried public servants have gone for several months, and in some cases, years un-paid. We have over the last 15 months fought these State governments to pay up these outstanding wages and pension liabilities they owe workers. We will continue to do this till all salaries and pensions across the country are fully paid up.”
But to Ngige, the allegation of the non-composition of the tripartite committee on the minimum wage by both NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) is unfounded, saying, “the statement is false and misleading as the Federal Government has demonstrated its commitment to improving the welfare of the Nigerian workforce by holding series of meetings with stakeholders on the subject matter, while the final meeting of the technical committee on new minimum wage was slated for 23rd February, 2017 but could not hold as scheduled, as both the Nigerian Labour Congress and its Trade Union Congress counterpart requested for a postponement of the meeting, in order to attend the delegate conference of National Union of Civil Engineering Construction/ Furniture and Wood Workers (NUCECFWW), at Asaba Delta State.”
While also confirming the allegation of the two labour centres, Ngige unwittingly hinted that the committee that is in place is the technical committee, which is different from the tripartite committee on the negotiation of the new wage.
Indeed, the technical committee Ngige said is in place was raised after the fuel price increment in 2016, whose mandate was to discuss the basis for the negotiation.
Ngige, in a statement signed by Deputy Director, Press, Samuel Olowookere, said a meeting of the technical committee on minimum wage is scheduled for Tuesday 14th March 2017 (today) at 2pm at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF).
A source in the labour movement bemoaned lack of understanding on how minimum wage negotiation works and decried the consistent identification of a technical committee to that of substantive negotiation committee.
Again, in his continued misunderstanding of the difference between minimum wage negotiation team and technical committee, Ngige accused Wabba of mischief, saying, “the allegation as ascribed to the Nigeria Labour Congress is mischievous and unfounded as the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba is fully aware of the rescheduled meeting and the reason for the postponement of the earlier meeting which was at the instance of the Labour Centres.”
There is still no record that the Federal Government has empanelled the negotiation committee on the minimum wage almost one year after the fuel price was hiked from N87 per litre to N145 per litre since May 2016.
In the meantime, the President of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Dr Abel Afolayan, while welcoming President Muhammadu Buhari back from his medical vacation in the UK, has urged the Federal Government to implement the 33 per cent increment on pension.