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Evaluating politics behind minimum wage ‘endorsement’

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Evaluating politics behind minimum wage ‘endorsement’

With the nationwide strike called by organised labour suspended over Federal Government’s acceptance of the new minimum wage committee’s report, workers may have to go through a very long wait to earn something better. Sunday Ojeme reports

 

As widely anticipated by Nigerians who understand the way and manner government operates in the country, the sudden capitulation by the Federal Government to labour’s request on the new minimum wage was something to be expected.
Crisis still ahead
Although most Nigerians have bought into the N30,000 smokescreen, what they are yet to understand is that the acceptance of the Tripartite Committee on New Minimum Wage report by President Muhammadu Buhari is only setting a new tone for another round of debate as the document would still have to move from stage to stage for endorsement.
Thus, the euphoria that greeted the president’s perceived endorsement, which invariably led to labour calling off the strike, is gradually dying down as facts are emerging that accepting the report does not automatically translate to endorsing the committee’s N30,000 proposal.
Even labour’s position in this regard was also misinterpreted by some members of the public, who believed that the crisis between organised labour and the Federal Government had to do with the latter’s refusal to accept the N30,000.
It would be recalled that what actually prompted the attempted strike had to do with Federal Government’s refusal to accept the committee’s report for onward transmission to the National Assembly, and not necessarily refusing to accept the N30,000. It should be made clear in this regard that accepting the report does not amount to accepting the figure.
President’s double dance
Although President Buhari had promised to ensure quick activation of the whole process, it is, however, clear to every discerning observer that the political exigency of the moment and the fact that the administration was actually arm twisted by labour to accept the document may compel otherwise.
Indications to this fact have started emerging barely 24 hours after Nigerians and labour celebrated its feat.
Specifically, the Presidency reportedly frowned at what it called misinterpretation of President Buhari’s remarks when he received the report from the committee’s Chairman, Ama Pepple, last Tuesday.
According to the Presidency, “the president’s speech at the event was immediately made available to the media and nowhere indicated that the president endorsed N30,000 minimum wage,” the Presidency said.
“It is not the duty of the president only to endorse a new national minimum wage. The process involves the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the National Economic Council (NEC) and the National Assembly.
“It is imperative for us to always avoid misinterpreting a written speech.”
The fact was also made clear from the president’s position while receiving the report when he pledged that the Federal Government would soon transmit an Executive bill (on National Minimum Wage) to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time.
Buying time
“Our plan is to transmit the Executive bill to the National Assembly for its passage within the shortest possible time “ he said:
“I am fully committed to having a new National Minimum Wage Act in the very near future. Buhari also expressed delight that the committee had successfully completed its assignment in a peaceful and non-controversial manner.
“Let me use this opportunity to recognise the leadership of the organised labour and private sector as well as representatives of State and Federal Governments for all your hard work.
“The fact that we are here today, is a notable achievement. As the Executive Arm commences its review of your submission, we will continue to engage you all in closing any open areas presented in this report.
“I, therefore, would like to ask for your patience and understanding in the coming weeks.
“The President, however, enjoined the leadership of the labour unions as well as the Nigerian workers to avoid being used as political weapons.
“May I therefore, employ workers and their leaders not to allow themselves to be used as political weapons.”
In anticipation of a possible disappointment from the government, organised labour has, however, directed its memnbers to be on standby to resume the strike.
Not yet uhuru
The General Secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Dr. Peter Ozo-Eso, directed presidents and secretaries of affiliate unions to mobilise members and be on standby in case any further directives on the implementations of the agreed amount.
“We all need to stand ready in a state of full mobilization in case future action becomes necessary to push for the timely enactment and implementation of the new Minimum Wage,” he said.
Last line
Going by this development and the fact that organised labour has not given a new timeline, it is obvious that implementation of a new minimum wage has shifted from the current year till when the lawmakers and other concerned bodies finalise their endorsement.

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