Organized labour on Wednesday says it cannot guarantee continued peace and harmony in the country if the tripartite Committee on the new national minimum wage fails to conclude its assignment in the next 14 days.
The threat notice was contained in a statement read at the joint press briefing by Presidents of the three labour centres, namely: Ayubba Wabba of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC); Bobboi Bala Kaigama of Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joe Ajaero of United Labour Congress (LUC)
The coalition which frowned at the action of Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment over the adjourn the ongoing negotiation to enable him make consultation with government, tackled the Technical Committee on Minimum Wage and Palliatives chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation which was mandated to fashion out mitigatory strategy, policies, and programmes to cushion the vagaries of the increase in the pump price of petroleum products for failing to implement the agreed initiatives.
“We the members of the organized labour who are members of the National Minimum Wage Committee charged with working out a new national minimum wage alongside other social partners or stake holders, invite you here today to brief you on the latest developments around the making of a new national minimum wage.
“This press conference is made inevitable by the latest provocative statement by the Honourable Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige who said a few days ago that the Committee should adjourn indefinitely to enable him do further consultations with the Government. His pronouncement came at a time the Committee was finalizing its work of arriving at a definite figure for submission to Government.
“We view his latest pronouncement with great concern, suspicion and outrage. This new antic certainly is not acceptable to Nigerian workers who had expected a new national minimum wage since 2016 but who out of uncommon sacrifice and patriotism hearkened to government’s
appeal and the process was delayed.
“Gentlemen of the press, you may wish to recollect that the National Minimum Wage Committee was inaugurated in November 2017 but commenced work in March 2018 with timelines to deliver on its mandate of arriving at a new national minimum wage in August/ September 2018.
“In the course of the work of the Committee, members had the ample time to consult. In any case the Committee was satisfied that it received memoranda and inputs from 21 state governments, specialized Agencies of the Federal Government, the Organized Private Sector, Organised Labour and the general public.
“We even recall that Dr. Ngige himself had assured workers during the 40th anniversary celebration of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in February this year that workers should expect a new national minimum wage in September this year.
“We wonder what has gone amiss between February 28 and now. Or do we assume that the Honourable Minister is acting a script?
“In light of this, his pronouncement is capable of rubbishing the work of the Committee as well as raising serious concerns about the readiness of the Government to accede to the putting together of a new national minimum wage.
“Beyond this, the Minister’s pronouncement has generated considerable tension among workers and provoked sharp reactions from the unions which justifiably argue that the Government is only out to waste the time of workers and is not prepared to pay a new national minimum wage.
“For the sake of emphasis, the national minimum wage was not only legally due about two years ago, the increase in the pump price of petroleum products by this administration with fundamental
consequential effects on the citizenry, the increase in electricity tariff, the massive devaluation of the Naira leading to a punitive exchange rate, and hyper-inflation, all of which led to a rising cost of living for workers and other Nigerians made a new national minimum wage not only necessary but urgent.
“Similarly, we are saddened to note that the recommendations of the Technical Committee on Minimum Wage and Palliatives chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation which was mandated to fashion out mitigatory strategy, policies, and programmes to cushion the vagaries of the increase in the pump price of petroleum products have not been implemented to date.
“The present posturing of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige who functioned as Acting Chairman of that Committee brings back painful -memories of precious time wasted, energies dissipated and hopes betrayed.
“Coupled with this, the Minister’s latest pronouncement goes to cast further doubt on the integrity of the government as well as underscores the inherent danger in doing business with Government.
“In view of the foregoing, we demand that Government does all that is necessary to ensure that the Tripartite Committee is allowed to conclude its work within 14 days from today.
“We would want to use this opportunity to let the Government and the whole world know that in the event that this demand is not met, we will not guarantee continued industrial peace and harmony,” the statement read.
, Organised Labour