Minimum wage: Only govs who want to loot won’t pay, says NLC

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The Nigeria Labour Congress on Tuesday said only governors, who had the intention of looting their state funds, would not pay the  new minimum wage of N30,000.

The union said it would not guarantee industrial harmony in states that failed to meet the December 31, 2019 deadline for the implementation of the new national minimum wage, noting that it was a law that must be obeyed by governors.

The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba,  who stated this in his New Year Message to Nigerians,  called on the union councils in the affected states to be on the standby to engage the state governments for their failure to obey the law.

Ayuba stated, “We wish to remind state governors that no excuse will be good enough for failure to pay. The ongoing revelations on the monumental looting perpetrated by former governors prove that only an intent to loot, and deadened conscience not availability of resources will  be the reason any governor would hesitate to pay workers the N30,000 new national minimum wage and the consequential adjustments in salaries. The new national minimum wage is now a law and state governors do not have the luxury to choose whether to pay or not.”

The new wage bill was signed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) on April 18 2019 while the Federal Government and organised labour agreed on consequential adjustments on October 18, 2019 after a lengthy negotiation.

The NLC had, after a meeting in Abuja on December 11, 2019, stated that many state governments had yet to begin negotiations with labour representatives in their states, adding that labour would respond against defaulting states after December 31, 2019.

When contacted to know the number of states that had yet to comply with labour directive, secretary general of the NLC, Emmanuel Ugboaja,  on Tuesday did not respond to a call placed to his phone; he did not reply a text message sent to him.

In a similar message by its President, Quadri Olaleye, the Trade Union Congress, had commended states that had commenced the payment of the new minimum wage.

It had called on governors that had yet to start payment to do so without delay.  Olaleye stated that TUC would not compromise the welfare of its members.

In a letter signed by Olaleye and the union’s Secretary General, Musa-Lawal, on December 19, 2019, TUC had called on its national administrative council members, the central working committee and the  national executive council to meet in Lagos on January 8 to review state governments’ compliance with the new minimum wage.

But  Ayuba, in his statement on Tuesday said in 2020, NLC would ensure a nationwide implementation of the new  minimum wage and consequential adjustments in workers’ salaries.

He said,  “Last year, there were also a number of challenges. Some states refused to set up negotiating committees to bargain with labour over consequential salary adjustments incident on the new national minimum wage.”

“It is heartwarming that some states are already implementing the new national minimum wage, while many states are already negotiating the consequential adjustments arising from the new national minimum wage. We await conclusions and immediate implementation.”

“As earlier noted, since April 18, 2019 when President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new national minimum wage of N30,000 into law, some states have already commenced implementation. We commend the states already paying the new national minimum wage and consequential adjustments in salaries for assuming the pacesetter status.”

“We use this medium to implore states that have yet to implement the new national minimum wage, including the states that have yet to begin negotiation with labour on the consequential wage adjustments to speedily do the needful.”

“In tandem with our position as adopted and communicated after a stakeholders’ meeting on December 11, 2019, organised labour in Nigeria will not guarantee industrial harmony in states that fail to implement the new national minimum wage by December 31, 2019. We direct our state councils to be on the standby to robustly engage state governments that fail to obey our laws.”

The NLC president and his TUC counterpart noted that Nigerian workers were deeply concerned about plans to renovate the National Assembly, which was built with N8bn, with N37bn. He said that given the developmental deficits and level of poverty in the country, the NLC considered the proposed renovation as misplaced priority.

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