Minimum wage debacle, conundrum

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The organised labour has woken from its sleep of recent to press for payment of new minimum wage to replace the beggarly abysmal minimum wage of N18,000, a wage which some states have found very difficult to pay with some still owing as much as five months. The trauma confronting workers is better imagined than experienced. The proverbial take-home pay of workers could not take them anywhere.

After a series of deadlocked meetings between organized labour and the Federal Government, Labour has urged the Federal Government to accelerate the implementation of the new minimum wage proposed by the tripartite committee on the issue as further postponement of the issue would mean further prologing the already elongated suffering of workers. The Nigeria Labour Congress has therefore urged  the Federal Government to accelerate the implementation of the new minimum wage proposed by the tripartite committee. NLC National President , Mr. Ayuba Wabba made the call at a news briefing last Wednesday in Lafia.

Wabba who was in Lafia for the ground-breaking ceremony of the affordable housing estate by the Federal Mortgage Bank categorically confirmed that the tripartite committee had already finished its assignment and had to submit the reports first to the Federal Governnment for prompt action, “so we expect the Federal Government to accelerate the process of implementation and transmit same to the National Assembly for other legislative actions.

He further said that the union would not make the agreed amount public until all the processes were completed.

In another twist to the issue, Labour Minister Chris Ngige has said that no agreement had been reached on the exact amount that should be paid to workers as new minimum wage.

Speaking after the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, Ngige said this was because the proposals ranged from N30,000 by the organised Labour to N20,000 by state governments and N25,000 by organised private sector.

He said there was no agreement on the figure to be paid as minimum wage, as negotiations were still on and this is at variance with Labour’s position that the negotiations committee agreed on N30,000 as the new minimum wage. But Wabba said the issue was sufficiently discussed and a figure arrived at adding “The issue of minimum wage had been concluded and a figure agreed upon and for anybody to say that there was no conclusion on the matter, is not correct.” “It is misplacement of information, and therefore, Labour will meet to take appropriate decision.”

Speaking, Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Boboi Bala Kaigama, said he did not believe the Federal Government would renege on its earlier promise on the minimum wage”. “Probably the appropriate information has not been passed out but at the appropriate time, we will release the correct information.”

“What we are saying is that the committee set up by government resolved on a figure and the figure will be announced when the committee’s chairman will present the report to President Muhammadu Buhari.” “The minister may be talking for his paymasters, but he should allow the committee to talk and the chairman of the committee is the best person in this regard,” he stated.

This is visibly a logjam as no meaningful progress had been made since negotiations began on this tortuous issue of minimum wage and this is rather unfortunate. With the Federal Government and organised labour exchanging fisticuffs over this issue, no timeline has been set for the payment of the new minimum wage meaning that Nigerian workers should not expect their working conditions to improve. We hereby appeal to the two dissenting parties – the Federal Government and organised Labour to reach for an amicable settlement as the situation is now, we don’t know which side to believe. By commission or omission, organised Labour should not be pushed towards resuming their suspended strike on the issue of this minimum wage as all series of meetings on minimum wage hitherto had been an action in futility. Therefore, the Federal Government and organised Labour should as a matter of exigency reach a compromise NOW.

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