Minimum Wage: In Support Of May 1 Deadline

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With yesterday’s signing of the National Minimum Wage Bill of N30,000 into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian workers may begin to heave a sigh of relief.
President Buhari, apparently succumbed to pressure by the organised labour, gave his imprimatur to the bill and also assured that the payment of the new National Minimum Wage would commence in May 2019 to mark the International Workers’ Day.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had, last Tuesday, given the Federal Government May 1, 2019 deadline for the payment of the new National Minimum Wage to Nigerian workers. The deadline was sequel to the approval of the N30,000 new minimum wage bill by the two chambers of the National Assembly.
While the House of Representatives had passed the minimum wage bill before the February Presidential election, the Senate gave its own approval to the N30,000 minimum wage last Tuesday.
Reacting to the quick passage of the bill by the National Assembly, the Acting President of NLC, Mr Najeem Yasin, commended the Senate for approving the minimum wage bill of N30,000, and called on President Buhari to quickly sign the bill into law for immediate implementation.
“We commend the Senate for passing the minimum wage bill of N30,000 but the battle for the minimum wage was not yet over. Workers will not rest until the bill is signed and implemented.
“… We want the Federal Government to ensure its implementation before the May Day celebration, which is the Workers Day celebration. The government should greet workers with the commencement of the implementation”, the NLC leader said.
The Tide recalls that for more than one year, the new minimum wage has been a subject of agitation and controversy between the Federal Government and the organised labour. The NLC had initially opted for N58,000 minimum wage, but the State governors, fearing the financial burden the proposed wage would impose on them, settled for N22,000. At last, a truce was reached through a tripartite negotiation committee and the N30,000 was arrived at as the new national minimum wage.
Yesterday’s signing of the National Minimum Wage Act by President Buhari, and the assurance given to commence the implementation by May, this year, is, indeed, a soothing balm to Nigerian workers.
The Tide particularly commends the organised labour for its resilience and resoluteness in the battle for the new minimum wage and we want to encourage the labour leaders not to relent until the new minimum wage is fully implemented.
We also hail the National Assembly for the quick passage of the new minimum wage bill as well as commend President Buhari for signing the bill into law. We, however, challenge the President to march his words with action by ensuring that the payment of the new National Minimum Wage commences by May, this year.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigerian workers have, in the last few years, suffered serious economic hardship due largely to inflation. The N30,000 new minimum wage will, therefore, serve as a palliative to Nigerian workers who still live below the poverty line.
Meanwhile, the fact that some State governments are still struggling to pay the current N18,000 minimum wage, seven years after it was signed into law, is worrisome.
The argument that the N30,000 new minimum wage will place extra, unbearable burden on many State governments is balderdash. It is high time the State governors prioritised the welfare of workers and saw salaries as legitimate earnings of workers who provide critical services to the economy and other sectors.
While we support the May 1 deadline for the commencement of the N30,000 new minimum wage, we also support the N75,000 fine recommended by the House of Representatives against defaulting private companies. This, we believe, will serve as a deterrent to private employers who are in the habit of exploiting their workers for economic gains.