Workers’ Day: Labour calls for upward review of salaries for workers

•Demand restoration of payment of gratuity •FG says minimum wage will remain in Exclusive List •Insist on payment of N30,000 by govs

The Organised Labour celebrated May Day at the popular Eagles Square, Abuja on Saturday with a demand for upward review of salary for workers.

Besides, the organised labour, under the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), demanded payment of gratuity to retiring officers to be restored in the public service.

The President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the TUC President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, in their joint address, also called for upward review of the retirement age and years of service in the entire civil service.

They said: “We demand an upward review of salary of core Civil Servants to narrow the gap between their emoluments and those of employees in other segments of the public service. We implore the federal government to once more direct the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to set up a committee to undertake this review that is certainly overdue.

“Although the 2004 Pension Reform Act was silent on the issue of payment of gratuity to workers, the Federal and some state governments have ceased paying gratuity to public service employees. Yet, it is gratifying that private sector employers and many state governments have continued to pay gratuity to their employees.

“We demand that payment of gratuity to retiring officers should be restored in the public service to compensate for years of service by workers.”

The organised labour also warned against the plot by the political class, and especially the state governors to reduce the minimum wage through their move to remove the minimum wage issue from the Exclusive to the concurrent legislative list would meet workers resistance.

They said: “The National Minimum Wages serve as social protection by providing a minimum income floor to safeguard low earners. Today, there are attempts by a section of Nigeria’s ruling class to kill the National Minimum Wage by removing it as an item from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List. This is most despicable.”

They further warned that any day the bill is considered by any of the chambers in the National Assembly, workers across the country will withdraw their services.

Also stressing the need for upward review of retirement age, they said: “While thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for the recent increase of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, we also call on government for an upward review of the retirement age and years of service in the entire Public Service. Certainly, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.”

They lamented the sorry state of Nigerian workers in recent years and declared that former President Shehu Shagari government paid a better national minimum wage to workers during the second republic in 1981 than the present government.

They pointed out that the equivalent of $US60 being paid by the present government is a far cry from the $US125 paid by late President Shagari in 1981, which incidentally was the first national minimum wage in the country.

They decried the plot by the political class to hide under fiscal federalism to rob workers of the meagre national minimum wage signed in law by the present government.

Describing it as an evil plot, they vowed that the organized labour and the generality of workers would resist the evil.

They said: “Hiding under the mask of ‘fiscal federalism,’ a few Nigerian politicians want to rob workers of the meagre national minimum wage which by today’s foreign exchange is equivalent to $US60 – a far cry from the first national minimum wage of the equivalent of $US125 which was signed into law in 1981 by the Late Shehu Shagari. We will resist this evil.”

The labour leaders said the national minimum wages serve as social protection by providing a minimum income floor to safeguard low earners.

According to them, “today, there are attempts by a section of Nigeria’s ruling class to kill the national minimum wage by removing it as an item from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List. This is most despicable.
As we had already canvassed during our nationwide protests and submission of petitions to the National Assembly and the 36 State Houses of Assembly on March 10, 2021, and subsequently in advocacy visits and advertorials in seven major newspapers in Nigeria, the national minimum wage is a global standard established by the ILO as Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention 026 of 1928 and reinforced by Minimum Wage Fixing Convention 131 of 1970.

“It was also captured in Article III subsection (d) of the ILO Philadelphia Declaration which demands that every country pursues… policies in regard to wages, earnings, hours and other conditions of work calculated to ensure a just share of fruits of progress to all, and minimum living wage to all employed and in need of such protection”

They added that the national minimum wage was also a binding international law, adding, “Nigeria signed up to the Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention 026 of 1928 on 16th June 1961. Pursuant to this ratification, the National Assembly apart from listing the National Minimum in the Exclusive Legislative List also domesticated ILO Convention 026 in Chapter 2 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy expressly demanding that the Nigerian State shall direct its policy towards ensuring the provision of reasonable national minimum living wage and pensions.”

They pointed out that minimum wage laws were in force in about 90% of ILO member states, stating that “in the United States of America, a federal state, the social partners adopted an hourly national minimum wage of $7.25 preserved in the federal laws of the United States. The different federating states can pay higher than the national minimum of $7.25 but no State pays lower.

“For Germany, a federal state in Western Europe, it also sets her National Minimum Wage on an hourly rate, which currently stands at 9.35 Euro. The regional governments ensure that wages in their domains do not fall lower than the national minimum wage benchmark. The Federal Republic of Germany increased its National Minimum Wage from 8.84 Euros (2017 rate) to the current 9.35 Euros in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic outbreak!

“Some persons may retort that the economic asymmetry between Nigeria and these economies are obvious, but our quick response is that other facts espoused in this piece will illuminate the social, economic and industrial wisdom in this approach. Indeed, Nigeria is advised to embrace this best practice rather than the regressive intentions of the proposed Bill.”

According to Labour, the argument that the transfer of the National Minimum Wage from the Exclusive to the Concurrent List is part of the efforts to restructure the country is a poor attempt to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has assured that the minimum wage issue would remain on the Exclusive list, adding that the law at present must be obeyed by the government across the federation.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who also represented President Muhammadu Buhari, said the governors are all bound to respect the law of the land and pay the N30,000 minimum wage.

He said: “Minimum Wage is still retained in the country’s Exclusive Legislative List of the federation. It is not going to be taken to the Concurrent List. Ministry of Labour will stay with you and ensure that it is not removed from the Exclusive List.”

The Minister said the Minimum Wage was signed by President Muhammad Buhari on April 18, 2019, and he made it clear that it takes effect on that day.

He pointed out that it was not a National law bound by Federal Government, adding that State governments are bound by law to pay the national minimum wage.

Ngige added: “National and State governments are bound by law to pay the national minimum wage. So it’s not a question of pick and choose. It was moved from N18,000 to N30,000 per month and it is irreducible. Therefore we expect states and people in the private sector to comply.

“Also all pensioners will get their pay from May and also their arrears starting from April 2019.”

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