Minimum wage reverse: Be ready for battle for war, NLC tells Governors

Minimum wage reverse: Be ready for battle for war, NLC tells Governors
Chris Steven, Abuja

A serious industrial crisis is looming across the country as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has described the attempt by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to reverse the N18000 National Minimum wage as a declaration of war against Nigerian workers.

NLC said ‎it was ready for the war as it would have no alternative than to mobilize to respond to what it called  act of aggression by the political class on the welfare of its members. 

The labour body in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by its National President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said it was  shocked by the statement credited to the chairman of the Governors Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari, that the N18,000 National Minimum Wage promulgated into law in 2011 was no longer sustainable because of the fall in the price of crude oil. 

The NLC which said workers salaries cannot be sacrificed on the altar of challenges of the economy which is not the making of workers.

This was as the Labour body said it was ready to do battle with the Governors Forum to raise the standard of living of its members.

 It has never happened in the history of our country, and it will not be said that it is during our leadership of the Nigerian Labour movement that this calamity was allowed to happen to Nigerian workers.” it said

While berating Chairman of the Forum for saying that the minimum wage was imposed, Comrade Wabba explained that the 2011 National Minimum Wage came into existence after almost two years of agitation and eventual negotiation by the tripartite of government (represented by both the federal and state governments), the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association representing other employers (in the private sector) and organized Labour.

‎”We wish to make it abundantly clear that this attempt to reverse the National Minimum Wage is a declaration of war against the working people of this country.” he said

He further said the process that gave birth to the minimum wage was  in the best tradition of tripartite negotiation recognized and codified by the International Labour Organization. 

His words: “As organized Labour, we submitted a request for N52,000 and provided justification for it as the minimum wage which a worker and his recognized legal dependents needs to live a health life over 30 – 31 days in a month. 

Out of our patriotic disposition and consideration, we reluctantly agreed to the N18,000 wage even as it was grossly inadequate as a living wage. Many of the state governments who submitted memoranda to the tripartite negotiating committee recommended figures that were far above the N18,000 that was eventually agreed”.

He argued that the governors cannot therefore want Nigerians to take them seriously by their present claim that the current national minimum wage was “imposed” on them!

“For us in the Nigeria Labour Congress, we know as a fact that ability to pay minimum wages is not the problem of the economy. What is the problem for states and other tiers of government is the amount of many political office holders and their unproductive aides take away as wages. For the private sector, the creed to accumulate more and more profit is also always a motivating factor to keep wages down.

Similarly, we have been in the forefront of campaigning that the cost of governance at all levels need to be drastically cut down, to  free enough resources for development.

 The hundreds of billions of Naira our public office holders continue to filtered away in the name of governance is what is not sustainable.

For instance, the annual cost to the public purse of governors ‘security votes’ which is an unaccountable drain on the public resources, is worth several thousands of minimum wages per state. 

Secondly, Nigerians who have the means to travel by air would recall that in the last 6- 10 years, majority, if not all our governors no longer use commercial airline regular flights as a means of transportation from one place to another. 

 They now have ‘official’ aircrafts and helicopters, which they maintain at huge costs to the state treasury. Their less “fortunate” counterparts charter aircrafts and helicopters at millions of Naira cost to tax payers to attend any manner of functions from marriages to child naming ceremonies.

States are in the poor financial state they are in largely on the developmental choices they have made; largely on the basis of priorities they have chosen which has nothing to do with the public good.” he said

‎NLC said it has as early as May 2015, given notice that the N18,000 National Minimum Wage was due for review, and that it would be submitting a new proposal once the incoming government settled down.

‎”We have been patient and waited for the President Buhari government to appoint ministers and thus have full compliments of officers to run the government.

 With the recent devaluation of the Naira, and the attendant increase in inflation and cost of living, even without the last minimum wage Act reaching the mandatory five years when it is due for review, we would have been justified to request for review. 

Now the five years is here – we are at the end of 2015, and with the cost of living being so high, we will soon table our New Minimum Wage demand to the federal government. If the recent statement by the Governors Forum is intended to maneuver them away from addressing this imperatives, then it is bound to fail as we are ready to do battle to raise the living standard of the Nigerian working people.” it said