The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday rejected N22,500 adopted by governors as the minimum wage their states can pay.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how governors of the 36 states met on Tuesday and adopted N22,500.
This is despite the NLC and other labour unions insisting they had agreed with the government to accept N30,000 as minimum wage after extensive deliberations.
The position of the state governors appears to have angered the NLC whose president, Ayuba Wabba, on Wednesday told journalists that workers would now demand N66,500.
“The demand of Organised Labour is not N30,000; our demand is N66,500. Let me also put the record straight. The official demand of organised labour is N66,500 which from all indexes now we are going to refer back to it,” Mr Wabba said at a press conference.
The NLC and other labour unions had earlier threatened to commence strike by November 6 if the government does not accept the N30,000 minimum wage.
“We wish to reiterate our position adopted at our National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of 23 rd October, 2018 that any figure below N30,000 will not be accepted by us.
“We call on our members to continue to mobilise in preparation for the commencement of an indefinite strike on the 6th of November, 2018, if by then necessary steps have not been taken to adopt the recommendations of the Tripartite Committee,” he said.
While addressing the press Wednesday afternoon, Mr Wabba said the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) is not a negotiating body but merely a political organisation for the convenience of state governors.
“And therefore I think at this point, labour needs to reiterate that the allocation or awards of N22,500 is hereby rejected. It has no place in collective bargaining process,” Mr Wabba said.
“The tripartite committee from inception sent letters to each state government to send in their memoranda as their contributions to the new national minimum wage negotiating process. Twenty one states sent in their memorandum quoting figures, . They also quoted figures individually because what the law recognises is individual state as entities that can negotiate in a process of collective bargaining and therefore that opportunity was not available for them to utilise,” he said.
The NLC president stressed that the demand of organised labour was N66,500.
“N30,000 is the compromise figure arrived at the end of negotiations by the tripartite partners – Government, Employers and Organized Labour. The new minimum wage was a product of intense negotiations that lasted for almost one year,” he said
“The governors had six representatives on the Tripartite Committee in which one state governor represented each of the geo-political zones. The representatives of the state governors were part of the work of the negotiating committee from beginning to the end,” he said.
Mr Wabba said the pronouncement by governors of N22,500 as the minimum wage “is an abuse of every known principle of industrial relations, labour laws, processes and international best practices.”
Mr Wabba said the minimum wage must be reviewed every five years, noting that the current one of N18,000 expired since 2016 “but Nigeria is in its seventh year and nothing is being done.”
The NLC president said it was “an aberration for the Nigeria Governors Forum to undermine and relegate workers interest and rights and call them merely five per cent of the population.
“Nobody can undermine the contribution of Nigerian workers that create the wealth of our economy. I think it is an understatement and very petty to say that the working class is merely five per cent. Let them tell us what number does the political elites including themselves the governors constitute in the context and in the perception of Nigerian workers.”
“We want to say clearly now that our position is that every governor should go back to his state because that is the entity that is organised by law, gather its worker and say that they are not willing to pay N30,000. Not coming to Abuja and now hide under a forum that is not known to law.”
The labour leader urged President Muhammadu Buhari to be aware of “the mischief” by the governors as they will go back to their states and gather workers and say “well, it is actually the presidency or federal government that is not willing to pay” the minimum wage.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the unions had embarked on a nationwide strike on September 26 to compel the tripartite committee to complete its assignment on the new minimum wage.
The strike was subsequently suspended for the committee to reconvene. But its deliberations and outcome are now in dispute.