Constitutional Amendment: NLC, TUC vow crippling strike over minimum wage

NLC President, Abdulwaheed Omar

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, two umbrella groups for the Nigeria workers, on Thursday took the National Assembly to the cleaners, describing their decision to remove workers’ wages from the exclusive list as “wicked, ridiculous, condemnable and treacherous.”

The two unions vowed a devastating nationwide strike that may stall next year’s election if the decision is not reversed.

The two workers’ groups in separate statements signed by NLC’s General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, and TUC General Secretary, Musa Lawal, said the decision to remove wage from the exclusive list was masterminded by conservative governors and their cohorts in the National Assembly to destabilize the country’s peaceful economic conditions.

They condemned the lawmakers of voting to move the National Minimum Wage Law from the exclusive list to the concurrent legislative list in the on-going 1999 constitution amendment.

The removal of workers’ wages from the exclusive list would empower the states of the federation to fix their respective minimum wages for their workers outside the national structure.

“We at the Congress see the removal of wages from the Exclusive List as an act of treachery masterminded by conservative governors and their cohorts in the Assembly as a decision that would do the polity no good,” Mr. Ozo-Eson.

The NLC threatened to mobilise its members to resist the move to scrap the national minimum wage, adding that Congress believed the removal was a deliberate and calculated attempt to move the workers from the “working poor to the slave-poor.”

Mr. Ozo-Eson said the labour unions were convinced it was a conscious ploy by some people to truncate the on-going electioneering process, urging the lawmakers to hearken to the voice of reason and the voice of the people by urgently retracing their steps as the consequences of their decision would be dire for the nation.

An emergency National Executive Council, NEC, of the NLC has been convened for October 27 to mobilise workers for action to resist the decision, the union said.

The TUC, in its statement, said that the step by the lawmakers would create more hardship and pave the way for all forms of violent reactions by the workers and Nigerians.

“We have monitored with keen interest the ridiculous attempts by some elements within the Upper House of the National Assembly to truncate the economic stability of the nation and create more hardship in the land,” the TUC said.

According to the congress, it was clear the lawmakers and their collaborators have had their say, but the workers are determined to ensure that they do not have their way.

The Nigerian Senate, it said, was feigning ignorance of the principle and concept of the minimum wage as practised in decent societies all over the world, pointing out that the timing of the decision, so close to the preparation for general elections in 2015, might actually be an attempt by the unscrupulous characters to provoke a national industrial crisis.

The TUC warned that unless the Senate reversed its decision immediately, it would not hesitate to mobilise the Nigerian workers to resort to the option of a national industrial action.

The Senate position, the Congress, said would encourage state governments to start paying “starvation wages” to their workers, adding that the current minimum wage of N18, 000 could not meet the immediate needs of the poor masses.

The Senate’s decision, the workers’ body noted, was in complete contrast with the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

According to the congress, the basic rationale for fixing a minimum wage was to ensure that employees, particularly members of the unorganised and unskilled labour centres, were not exploited. (NAN)

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