Pursuing labour’s plan to deliver a meaningful minimum wage to workers, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has called for commitment and sincerity by stakeholders on the issue.
NLC’s National President, Ayuba Wabba, made the call while speaking with journalists shortly after an interaction with the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) held on Wednesday night in Abuja.
He said the economic challenge occasioned by continued devaluation, exchange rate, increase in pump price of petroleum products and
high electricity tariff had virtually eroded the purchasing power of Nigerians.
Wabba, therefore, said a review of the minimum wage of N18, 000 was imperative.
“What we are telling the governors is that the review of national minimum wage is due and that everybody must be committed to it in the sense that every state was given an opportunity.
“When the committee started its assignment, we wrote individually to all the state governors and 21 states responded in writing.
“Some quoted figures while some said that whatever is agreed on they are going to pay; some had made statements even recently to say that they are going to pay.
“So for anybody to come under any platform and say that they have issues with that, I think the best thing is to go back to your state, call your workers together and say I will not be able to pay.
“That I think is honourable and should be done,” the NLC boss said.
Wabba said he had spoken to the Governors’ Forum not to see salary as a bonus but legitimate earnings to workers who provide critical services to the economy and other sectors.
He added: “You cannot continue to refer to workers as tiny minority; No! it is this tiny minority that services the entire population.
“If the quest of government is to provide quality education, then you must use the teacher. The teacher is central.
“To provide quality health care, the health workers and doctors are central, and whatever you pay them is for the services that they render.
“Therefore, for them to continue to render these services, they must be able to take care of their families. This is the whole concept of minimum wage.”
Wabba said apart from the low purchasing power of workers, the current minimum wage of N18, 000 was supposed to have been reviewed as far back as 2016.
He said the review was in line with the union’s agreement with governments during the negotiation of between 2010 and 2011.
“All of these factors put together necessitated the NLC and the organised Labour’s demand from minimum wage which is intandem with the global practice.
“This is supported by Convention 131 of the International Labour organization (ILO).
“It is also supported by recommendation 26 of the ILO that there should be evidence based approach through a process of collective bargain to review the minimum wage.
“Through that engagement, the committee as we are aware was set up in November 2017 but the actual work of the committee did not commence until March this year.
“And the committee gave itself a timeline of between August and September to complete its assignment.
“Everybody was aware of that; even the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, has said severally that minimum wage will be delivered in September,” Wabba said.
On the Federal Government’s ban on private practice by medical doctors in public hospitals, Wabba said such a policy negates the existing labour law.
“Our law as at today allows the doctors to practice outside the office even as workers are allowed to go into farming.
“It is already in the law and you cannot now use White Paper to change it. It has to go through the National Assembly,” he said