FG’s Volte-Face On New Minimum Wage

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The struggle by the organised labour for a new National Minimum Wage regime suffered another setback last week following Federal Government’s volte-face to the effect that a new wage regime will now commence next year instead of the third quarter of this year earlier promised.
The sudden somersault by the government evidently demonstrates the obvious disregard to workers’ well-being and outright disobedience of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which specifies that a new wage structure be put in place every five years.
The Tide is aware that the current N18,000 minimum wage has since August 2016 elapsed and a new one overdue .
We recall that in May 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a 29-member National Minimum Wage Committee to negotiate with labour unions for a new wage regime for Nigerian workers after accepting the report of the 16-man joint committee set up by the Federal Government.
While we appreciate the different positions of the major labour unions: Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) , Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC), we expect that their individual positions would have been harmonised before the end of August, 2018 for possible implementation of the new minimum wage.
The recent pronouncement by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige that the new wage proposal was not accommodated in the 2018 federal budget is, therefore, untenable, unacceptable, provocative and condemnable.
The Tide, therefore, expects that the minimum wage, being a constitutional matter, makes it more expeditious for the Federal Government to exhibit highest level of sincerity and commitment, as such extra-budgetary issues can be constitutionally handled through supplementary budget.
Workers’ demand for a new wage regime has become more imperative and even inevitable now, especially against the backdrop of high inflationary rate and economic hardship that have made most Nigerian families live below the poverty line.
It is a common knowledge that Nigerian workers, especially those in the public sector, are among the least paid in the world, hence, the Nigerian government must take proactive measures to ensure a good living wage for the workers so as to curb corruption which is fast becoming endemic in the nation’s public service.
We condemn in the strongest terms the foot-dragging approach of the Federal Government and the docility of the NLC and TUC in demanding for what apparently is the constitutional right of the Nigerian worker.
The belated response by the NLC’s President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, denouncing Ngige’s statement, may not be enough to make the Federal Government sit up on the new wage issue.
The NLC, TUC, ULC and their affiliates must, as a matter of necessity, close ranks, pressurise government and in fact, give the Federal Government a deadline within which to implement a new wage or face the wrath of Nigerian workers.
A situation where Nigerian workers live in less than three dollars per day and can hardly afford decent meals or affordable shelter or healthcare is no longer acceptable.
We recall vividly the declaration by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during this year’s Workers’ Day celebration that a new wage dispensation would be effective this year. That is, however, at variance with Ngige’s recent statement.
We align ourselves with the position of the ULC that Ngige, being a member of the tripartite committee, should not single-handedly take a unilateral decision without recourse to the committee.
This rigmarole on the well-being and welfare of Nigerian workers must stop now.