The Federal Government and organised labour yesterday rejected the N22,500 minimum wage proposal put forward by the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF.
While the Federal Government insisted on paying N24,000, Labour threatened to go back to its initial demand of N66,500, even as Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige accused state governors of not doing enough on the issue.
In reaction, the joint Central Working Committee, CWC, comprising all presidents and general secretaries of labour centres of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the Trade Union Congress, TUC and the United Labour Congress, ULC, have scheduled an emergency meeting for tomorrow in Lagos. Federal Government may be planning to use a court injunction to stop the nationwide strike scheduled to start on Tuesday, November 6.
This is just as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has planned to meet with the aggrieved labour leaders in a bid to find an amicable resolution of the minimum wage brouhaha.
Briefing journalists in Abuja to make known their rejection of the NGF offer, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said the initial N30,000 which he said was a product of compromise from the Tripartite Negotiation Committee meeting will no longer stand as organized labour has gone back to its initial demand.
He explained that 21 of 36 states at the commencement of the negotiation, sent memoranda and even quoted different figures as the minimum wage they could pay, describing the N22,500 by the Nigeria’s Governors Forum, NGF, as a mere pronouncement that won’t stand.
Wabba said: “Our attention has been drawn to a communiqué issued by the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, after its meeting on October 30, 2018, claiming that state governors can only pay N22,500 as new National Minimum Wage.
“First, we wish to state that the Nigeria Governors Forum is not a negotiating body but merely a political organization for the convenience of state governors. “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. 21 states sent in their memoranda, quoting figures.
“Second, the demand of organized labour is not N30,000, our demand is N66,500. N30,000 is the compromise figure we arrived at, at the end of negotiations by the tripartite partners, including government, employers and Organized Labour.
“The new minimum wage was a product of intense negotiations that lasted almost one year. The governors had six representatives on the Tripartite Committee – 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.
“It is important to note that the National Minimum Wage is not an allocation to workers. It is a product of negotiation by the tripartite partners. The unilateral pronouncement by governors of N22,500 minimum wage is an abuse of every known principle of industrial relations, labour laws, processes and international best practices.
“Third, the NGF erroneously stated that the population of salaried workers is 5% of the general population in Nigeria. This 5% represents the nation’s workforce, including teachers, health workers, police personnel, military men and women, engineers, drivers and other workers labouring for the development of our country.
“In Finland, with far less population than Nigeria, every classroom is taught by four teachers. That is a country that understands the critical place of human capital to development. Of what benefit are roads, rails and bridges without human beings to run them?
“Fourth, we are also very concerned about the huge pressure being brought upon Organized Private Sector, OPS, to compromise its stand on the N30,000 compromise new National Minimum Wage.
“This pressure by the enemies of the Nigerian people was what led to the recent statement by NACCIMA that sought to cast aspersion on an already negotiated new National Minimum Wage.
“We believe that the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, a reputable body that represents organized labour, will present the facts as they are.
“We, therefore, condemn unequivocally the communique issued by the Nigeria Governors Forum on October 30, 2018, as an attempt to undermine the authority of Mr. President. This position should be equally condemned by all.
“Our demand is that the constitutional, legal and morally right step to take at this point is for the chairman of the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Negotiating Committee to submit the report of the already concluded National Minimum Wage negotiations to Mr. President for transmission to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.”
He said the National Executive Council in its meeting of October 23, 2018, had adopted N30,000, stressing that “any figure below N30,000 will not be accepted by us.
‘’We call on our members to continue to mobilize in preparation for the commencement of an indefinite strike on November 6, 2018, if by then necessary steps were not taken to adopt the recommendations of the Tripartite Committee.”
The NLC boss foreclosed further negotiations on minimum wage with the Negotiation Committee, saying every negotiation had been concluded.
Wabba said already, proceedings of their meeting had been sent to President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that organized labour reamins open to discuss with the President whenever he deemed it necessary to invite them.
Commenting on the statement by NACCIMA disassociating itself from the N30,000 agreement, he said NACCIMA issued the statement under duress and warned government not to take workers for granted.
FG sticks to N24,000, state govs N22,500
With the position of the NGF not to pay above N22,500, the Federal Government had also maintained that it would not pay anything above N24,000.
It was also gathered that Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, has scheduled to meet with the relevant stakeholders, including labour leaders, in a conciliatory bid to find a way for amicable resolution of the minimum wage impasse.
Members of the EMT met with the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to brief him on the development after the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting but the outcome of the meeting was not made known to journalists.
Members of the EMT that met the Vice President included the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, and Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma.
Labour reverts to N65,000 minimum wage demand — Ajaero
Affirming NLC’s position, President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, Mr. Joe Ajaero, said among others, that labour had reverted to its original N65,000 as an irreducible minimum.
He said: “Since the government, which is a major stakeholder in the Tripartite Committee has reneged on the agreement repudiating its earlier documented offer, ULC, in conjunction with other Labour Centres, rejects the N30,000 compromise figure of the Tripartite Committee and now insists on our original collective demand of N65,000 as an irreducible minimum.
“The only figure that we now recognize is N65,000 or nothing else. This shall be the focus of our demand as we move into the nationwide strike on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.
“It is unfortunate that this government would rather seek ways of keeping workers at the periphery of the nation’s economy.’’
Governors haven’t done enough — Ngige
Meanwhile, speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme yesterday, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Chris Ngige, said the Federal Government had rejected the N22,500 minimum wage proposal by the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF.
“The governors have not even done enough. I told them that this N22,500 is even rejected by the Federal Government,” he said.
He criticised the governors for the figure, saying N22,500 was even below the N24,000 proposed by the Federal Government. He, however, said that all parties would resume on negotiations to see that the welfare of workers was met.
Ngige added: “The national minimum wage is a national legislation being driven by the Federal Government of Nigeria in pursuance to item 34 of the Exclusive Legislative list.
“But you don’t go and make a law which people will disobey at the initial stage. If you make a law and fix a figure that is not agreeable, and people don’t have the capacity or ability to pay, then it is nullity.
“This is because the International Labour Organisation, ILO, says in those negotiations, the principle is the ability to pay.”
The minister, however, decried the fact that chairman of the Tripartite Committee, Ms. Ama Pepple, was not in the country. Ngige explained that despite her absence for two weeks, having gone for medical check-up, the Federal Government would convene partners involved in the minimum wage to deliberate on the issue and arrive on the same page.
Although workers are demanding N30,000 as minimum wage, the minister noted that any industrial action being embarked upon by the aggrieved workers would not resolve the issues at stake.
OPS blasts NACCIMA, insists committee okayed N30,000
Reacting to NACCIMA’s claim that it was not privy to the agreement on N30,000 minimum wage, Organised Private Sector, OPS, yesterday blasted President of the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, KADCCIMA, Dr. Muheeba Dankaka, who represented NACCIMA in Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage, over his denial of N30,000 minimum wage recommended by the committee.
OPS in a statement accused the NACCIMA representative of unwittingly allowing herself to undermine the solidarity of the OPS at a time integrity, candour and credibility would go a long way to resolve the burning issue of a National Minimum Wage conundrum.
Speaking through the Director-General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, Mr Olusegun Oshinowo, OPS expressed its utter disappointment in the statement issued by the representative of NACCIMA on the outcome of the works of the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage.
Recall that the representative of NACCIMA, Muheeba Dankaka, had through a letter to the chairperson of the Tripartite Committee on the New National Minimum Wage, Ms Ama Pepple, dissociated NACCIMA from the position of the OPS.
Oshinowo said: “Muheeba Dankaka was, indeed, absent from the sitting of the Tripartite Committee on September 4 and 5, 2018, when conclusions were reached. How then could she have been part of the discussions that led to the agreement?
“Other OPS representatives had consulted among themselves and were in touch with their primary constituencies through the process of negotiation which culminated in the agreement of N30,000 as the National Minimum Wage.
“Her letter to the committee chairperson smirks not only of mischief, but also utter ignorance on many fundamental issues and processes of the National Minimum Wage, NMW, fixing mechanism. At no time did NACCIMA propose a contrary figure to that of the entire OPS (NECA, MAN and NASME), all through the works of the committee.
“NECA traditionally has been the leader of the OPS on advocacy issues relating to labour and social issues, a role which it has creditably discharged in the over 60 years of its existence. The other arms of the OPS (NECA, MAN and NASME) are on the same page and undivided on this matter.
“The NMW Committee has, indeed, concluded its works on September 5, 2018, on the note that it would only reconvene on a date to be given by the Presidency to submit its report to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The committee at plenary, had concluded on the note of recommending N30, 000 as the NMW, while noting the Federal Government’s position of N24,000.”