States, private institutions must respect minimum wage —FG •Ngige meets Labour leaders, Nasarawa govt over crisis today

The Federal Government has declared that state governments and private institutions must respect the set minimum wage because it is a law of the land which must be respected by all public and private institutions.

It made the clarification as it wades into the crisis between the organised Labour and the Nasarawa State Government over the state government’s unilateral reduction in minimum wage and the ensuing crisis that followed, which has led to the killing of two workers.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who made the declaration, has therefore, scheduled a meeting between the two parties for today at the conference hall of the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The meeting is the continuation of the negotiation which started last week.

However, the minister warned in a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Media, Prince Samuel Olowookere, that any state government or private institution cannot tamper with the minimum wage unilaterally, because it is the law arrived at through a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“To avoid further escalation of disputes of this type all over the states of the federation, state governments are hereby advised to always negotiate any issue that touches on the salaries and wages of workers, in order to ensure that they obtain a Collective Bargaining Agreement (BCA) before these remunerations are tampered with.

“I wish to add for the avoidance of doubt that the issue of minimum wage flows out from the Minimum Wage Act, 2011. It is therefore a law of the land that must be respected by all in both public and private institutions,” the minister said.

On the issue of planned reduction of working hours to justify some of the states move to reduce salary, the minister said it is illegal and against the extant Labour law and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention which Nigeria is a signatory to.

He added that “In the same vein, the issue of arbitrary reduction in the hours of work runs against the ILO regulation; Convention 1, which has been adopted and domesticated by Nigeria. This law prescribes eight hours of work in a day and not more than 40 hours in a week.”

He pointed out that he has waded into the issue in Nasarawa State following the protracted industrial crisis and to restore industrial harmony and forestall the breakdown of law and order.

This, he said is pursuant to the powers invested on him by section 5(1) & (2) of the Trade Dispute Act, Laws of Nigeria, 2004 and also predicated on a letter written to him by Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State for labour conciliation by the ministry.

The parties, according to him, have been invited in continuation of the crucial meeting today.

The minister appealed to the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, to suspend all actions, picketing of government offices and demonstrations, and all parties involved to maintain the status quo ante pending the outcome of the meeting intended to resolve the issues in disputes.