Fresh Labour Crisis Looms Over Minimum Wage
• Oshiomhole Disagrees With Fellow Govs
• Labour Set To Begin Mobilisation Of Workers
EDO State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole has disagreed with the decision of some governors to reduce the existing N18,000 minimum wage.
Speaking in Abuja yesterday at the reconciliation meeting of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Oshiomhole said collecting N18, 000 in 31 days is low enough and any decision to lower it because of low allocation to states from the federation account cannot justify the criminality of such an action.
He said: “I believe that the issues in the economy have got nothing to do with minimum wage. I always remind my colleagues that the minimum wage was not imposed. It was negotiated; state governments agreed to it, the President at the time signed it, not under duress.
“When you look at the minimum wage as it is today, at N18, 000, it less than $100. When that is divided by 31 days, it comes to less than $2 a day. It cannot be argued that workers in the formal sector in Nigeria must not earn $2 per day.
“I would not subscribe to that because at the heart of governance is the welfare of the people.”
Oshiomhole was quick to explain that there are indeed issues about the management capacity in the economy and looting of the economy, which went unchallenged by institutions, such as the labour movement.
“I have been loud about the massive looting of our collective patrimony. My only complain is that the NLC’s voice was not loud when it mattered. There was a criminal silence on the part of the NLC when the looting was going on,” he said.
Meanwhile, organised labour has voiced its readiness to mobilise against attempt by any state governor to reduce the minimum wage.
Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, reportedly said the N18,000 minimum wage was no longer sustainable, given the slide in the monthly allocation arising from the fall in petroleum prices.
Speaking at the African Industrialisation Day in Abuja yesterday, NLC and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) warned the governors not to precipitate another round of industrial unrest, vowing to mobilise Nigerian workers against the move.
NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, who spoke on the sidelines of the event, said rather than contemplate a downward review of the minimum wage, state governors should shun frivolous spending, cut down on their retinue of aides and security votes.
According to Wabba, the Labour Centre would mobilise Nigerian workers to grind the country’s economy aground should the governors succeed in the downward review of the legally biding minimum wage.
He said: “Let me use this platform to respond to the uncharitable proposition of the state governors on the minimum wage issue. Labour is not the problem. The point to be made is that they have not been able to reduce the cost of governance. They should go and reduce their security votes.
“Let them also cut down on the number of their entourage. They must also be accountable to the citizens that voted them into power. We are going to resist any attempt to tamper with the payment under any guise. Let them also note that the N18,000 minimum wage was not allocated; it was negotiated through a tripartite process and it is a product of law that is even due for review. We are going to champion the review.
“Let us also put them on notice. If attempt is made to reduce, review or do anything outside the legal minimum wage of N18,000, which cannot even take us home, we are going to resist it. Nigerian workers will be mobIlised to resist”, Wabba said.
Also, in a statement jointly signed by the TUC President, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama and the Secretary General, Mr. Musa Lawal, the union described as laughable, the position of the governors on the minimum wage issue.
It said: “What baffles any Nigerian is that the governors assert that the minimum wage was ‘imposed.’ We are all living witnesses to the processes the last minimum wage negotiation took.
“There was a tripartite meeting, involving government at all levels, employers (through Nigeria’s Employers Consultative Association NECA) and the organised labour.
“One will say that the negotiation that took place fulfilled International Labour Organisation (ILO) standard of tripartism, after which the National Assembly enacted the new Minimum Wage Bill to law. And now, our leaders, the governors, short of suffering from total amnesia, are talking of imposition.”