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New minimum wage: Workers’ path to victory



New minimum wage: Workers’ path to victory

As the Federal Government reaffirms its position to fully implement the new minimum wage by the third quarter of this year, SUNDAY OJEME, in this report, relives the process adopted by stakeholders to achieve the goal



Except the Federal Government renege on its promise, Nigerian workers have been promised the implementation of the new minimum wage by the third quarter of this year.
The expected implementation is likely to put an end to one battle that has long been fought relentlessly by members of the organised labour and those bothered about the poor welfare of Nigerian workers.

Incidentally, the news by the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, came just a day or so after the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Lagos called on the Minimum Wage Committee to hasten the implementation process so as not to exceed the promised third quarter.

The minister’s pronouncement was actually a reaffirmation of his earlier position when he placed the possibility of having it executed this year at the doorstep of the tripartite committee set up to look into the process.
According to him, the negotiation committee for the new minimum wage for workers had received memoranda from all stakeholders involved in the process and the implementation should begin later this year.

Labour’s headway
The committee has received memoranda from all the critical stakeholders and should begin the implementation of a new minimum wage in the third quarter of this year,” he said.
The promised implementation is indeed a hard victory for the labour movement and Nigerian workers, especially the low income earners whose wages were constantly eaten up by inflation and other compelling commitments.

For the records, the leadership of labour movement, after years of confrontations on the issue, finally made a positive headway last year as the struggle to increase the current minimum wage of N18,000 took shape with the Federal Government constituting an all inclusive committee.

Ngige had said that the onus now lay on how fast the committee was able to fast-track the process as the Federal Government was set to pay the enhanced package without hindrance.
The minister’s position was also corroborated by the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, who gave assurance that even though there was no provision yet in the 2018 budget proposals currently before the National Assembly to cater for the planned increase, it did not, in any way, suggests that the government was not willing to increase the workers’ salaries.

Although the new wage is yet to be made public, a member of the committee, however, disclosed during an interaction that the committee was not likely to pick either of the wages put forward by labour.
He made it clear that it would, however, present an acceptable proposal that would be acceptable to both government and workers.

The minister had said that the National Tripartite Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari would likely conclude arrangements on the exercise in the third quarter of this year.
“We had our inaugural meeting on 14th December and we did a framework for our work. We will finish our job before the third quarter of this year, but we may finish earlier,” he said.

Likely hitches
Despite the assurance, there are, however, fears that the National Assembly might delay the process and possibly push it further into 2019. The apprehension stems from the fact that Buhari, while inaugurating the committee, had said that after the completion of the work of the committee, an executive bill would be sent to the National Assembly “to undergo scrutiny before being passed into law.”

Known for its delay tactics and political infusion into matters of this nature, one of the labour leaders, who is the President, Medical and Health Workers Union, Mr Biobelemoye Joshua, said the organised labour would not allow the government to use the minimum wage issue to score political point. He said that if the government employed delay tactics for any reason, labour would waste no time in reacting.

Having expressed satisfaction over the government’s position, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, believes that the quick implementation of the process will go a long way in filling the gaps workers had lost in the past
Wabba said the inauguration of the new minimum wage committee was long overdue, stressing that the committee should work immediately to cover the times that have been lost.

“If you look at the exchange rate, the N18,000 minimum wage of 2011 when we signed the agreement, it was almost equivalent to N110 dollars; today, the N18,000 is less than 46 dollars. So, this is the reality and with the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerian worker, with the high cost of transaction, our expectation is that the committee should look at the conditions of the Nigeria workers and pensioners.”

President Buhari had earlier corroborated Wabba’s position while inaugurating the committee when he said that the new national minimum wage had become imperative as the current wage instrument had expired.

Committee membership
The 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee include governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Simon Lalong of Plateau, Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe.

Also involved are persons from the public sector (federal and state governments) and the private sector made up of the largest private employer group, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME).
The committee has a former Head of Service and Minister of Housing, Ama Pepple, as chairperson, while the current Minister of Labour and employment, Chris Ngige, is deputy chairman.

On the Trade Union side are the President of NLC, who leads a team comprising Peters Adeyemi, Kiri Mohammed, Amechi Asugwuni and Peter Ozo-Eson.
The TUC is led by its President, Bobboi Kaigama, and other members including Sunday Salako and Alade Lawa.
The President, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Igwe Achese, is also a member.

On the employers’ side are Olusegun Oshinowo, Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, as well as Timothy Olawale and Chuma Nwankwo.
The Director General, Federation of Construction Industry, FOCI, Olubunmi Adekoje; Chairman, Kaduna East Branch, Manufacturers Association, MAN, Ahmed Gobir; and Francis Oluwagbenro also from MAN are members.

Last line
With the assurance finally given for the implementation of a new minimum wage implementation, the Federal Government should, however, not make this a process to score another political point as the improved welfare of the average Nigerian worker has become something of utmost importance.

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