New Minimum Wage: Workers may wait longer ―Ngige

From left, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige; President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, during the presentation of the technical committee on minimum wage and palliatives report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, in Abuja, on Thursday. PHOTO: NAN

Nigerian workers who are anxiously expecting new minimum wage soon, may have to wait for a longer time as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, declared in Geneva, Switzerland that there is no time limit to when the process that would lead to the new wage would be concluded.

Ngige, who was addressing journalists at the on-going 106th session of the International Labour Congress (ILC), holding at the United Nations Building, in Geneva, stated that though the processes have begun, while the minimum wage committee will be put in place in a fortnight, he cannot put a time limit to when negotiation will be concluded.

But in a swift reaction, the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba declared that all, including government, employers in private sector and labour must see to the fact that the process must have a timeline when it would end.

Wabba warned that “We should not allow those workers to die first before the fruit of their Labour will manifest,” adding that the fears are real because the process have been prolonged.

The ministers said that he cannot put a time limit because the issue of minimum wage involves a rigorous process and negotiation, adding that it also involves the employers, workers and the government who have all agreed that there is the need to review minimum wage in Nigeria.

Justifying his position, he pointed out that while the workers, represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have proposed N56,000, the employers represented by Nigeria Employers Consultative Council (NECA), have rejected the proposal and declared that they cannot pay N56,000 for now.

He, however, stated that actual discussion would only start when the committee is put in place in the next fortnight; and that all the comments being made on the issue of minimum wage were informal.

When the minister was asked if there is time limit and when will the workers start enjoying the new minimum wage, he said: “We cannot put a time limit, it is a negotiation. A negotiation that is on-going but we are sure that all of us have seen the need that there must be a review. Some have taken their position.”

“The workers have demanded for N56,000, the employers have said for now they cannot pay N56,000; but everything being said now are outside the orbit of the negotiations table. When the committee comes to force, actual discussion will start. The committee will come in place in the next fortnight.”

However, the minister commended the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the Labour delegation to the ILC for being fair to the Nigeria Government in their report, and for not reporting the government of subjugation during his presentation to the session.

Ngige said: “Well the NLC president was also generous in his report, to report that we are already doing something in terms of tripartism, collective bargaining and that is all that is needed on the issue of minimum wage.”

“The issue of minimum wage is a tripartite thing, involving the employers, workers themselves and the government. Three of us are talking, we have agreed that there is the need to review minimum wage in Nigeria.

“The government also agreed that there is the need to pay for shortfall of salary arrears, promotion arrears and other earned allowances. They can also attest, that is why they have not reported us here of subjugation because we have taken bold steps.”

Also responding to the position of the minister on the unexpected delay, NLC President, Comrade Wabba said it is good for people to express their fears, but it is also good for leaders to be up and doing.

Wabba said: “For us Organised Labour, certainty, it is an issue that we think that is long overdue and we have gotten commitment from all level, including from the National Assembly that they are ready to make sure that this issue is addressed once and for all.”

“You can even see that in the last one month, one action that has been taken, the leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajamila proposed a bill to the effect that the issue of the review of minimum wage should even be a provision of the law; because you are aware that in 2011, what we had was a tripartite agreement that after five years, the minimum wage will be reviewed.”

“But they have even gone one step further by saying that it should not only end up in the tripartite agreement, it should be a product of law. And I think that all of them in the National Assembly, which we have interfaced with, they are ready to do the needful, including if there is supplementary budget today, that they are ready to give it accelerated hearing.”

“Those fears are real, but we are working assiduously from our perspective to ensure that those issues are addressed.  It is an issue that that you need to bring the governors, employers, government and Organized Labour.”

“And you know businesses are for profits and anything that will take a dime out of their profits, they are ready to do everything possible to delay it. We are mindful of that. It’s not the first time we are treading this path, you remember in 2010, it was also the same process.”

“There was also this insinuations. But I think when the die is cast, all of us then know that certainly the workers are pushed to the wall, there is a limit to patient and understanding. Certainly, a hungry person, however you explain to him, there is no basis how he will understand.”

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