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Minimum wage: Govs can’t dictate what to pay —NLC

  • Accuses governors of hypocrisy, double standards  
  • We’ll negotiate our own wage, Jigawa gov insists
  • Fresh fears over standoff, impact of new minimum wage

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday rebuked governors for asking to be allowed to pay whatever they can afford as minimum wage to workers.

Negotiations for minimum wage between organised labour and government has been deadlocked with the federal government offering N62,000 while labour insists on N250,000.

Further talks on a new wage are being put on hold on account of the decision of President Bola Tinubu to consult before sending the Bill to the National Assembly.

But many state governments are of the opinion that even the N62,000 proposed by the federal government is too high.

In its communiqué at the end of a meeting in Abeokuta on Monday, the Southern Governors Forum resolved that each state should be allowed to negotiate its minimum wage.

Reacting to the governors’ position in a statement signed by Benson Upah, its Head of Public Affairs, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the notion that states should be allowed to negotiate their minimum wage is not only dictatorial but also undermines the very essence as well as the model adopted for creating a national minimum wage in Nigeria.

The statement said the desire by many governors to pay workers whatever they like is a recipe for deepening poverty and cause varying dimensions of insecurity.

The NLC urged President Tinubu, who had promised a living wage (which is superior to a minimum wage) not to allow himself to be blackmailed or boxed into a corner by some unpatriotic governors.

The NLC also urged the Federal Government to stop dithering on the issue of national minimum wage because of the gang up by some selfish governors.

The congress urged the governors to abandon any inclination towards dictatorial practices as the process remains a tripartite one.

The strongly-worded statement reads: “The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is compelled to address the recent statements made by some Nigerian governors regarding their desire to pay what they deem fit to Nigerian workers as the minimum wage.

“This notion is not only dictatorial but also undermines the very essence as well as the model adopted for creating a national minimum wage in Nigeria.

“The concept of a national minimum wage is not arbitrary. It represents a national wage floor, a baseline below which no worker in the law should be paid.

“This threshold is a collective agreement that ensures a minimum standard of living for every worker in the law.

“The Governors’ demand to unilaterally determine the minimum wage negates this principle and threatens the welfare of Nigerian workers and the national economy.

“It is important to remind the Governors that the national minimum wage is not synonymous with the individual pay structures of the states which they implement religiously, reflecting their unique financial capabilities and circumstances.

“This diversity in pay structures underscores the flexibility that already exists within the system, allowing states to reward their workers in alignment with their financial realities.

“Furthermore, the Governors’ argument appears inconsistent when juxtaposed with the remuneration of political office holders.

“Why is there no hue and cry when political office holders across the nation receive uniform salaries as determined by Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission?

“This double standards which pits a few privileged against the majority poor, is an issue that should be of concern to those who love this country.

“We are deeply concerned by this blatant display of ignorance regarding the global best practices for national minimum wage by some of these Governors.

“It is evident that despite their frequent travels abroad, they have deliberately chosen not to educate themselves on fundamental global issues crucial to successful governance.

“This level of self-imposed ignorance on basic industrial relations matters clearly illustrates why our nation is poorly governed, resulting in unacceptable suffering of Nigerians.

“For this set of governors, we recommend a return to school for proper education as they constitute a threat to our democracy.

“We must also use the opportunity to commend the forward-looking and progressively-minded governors (not in name but in deed) who take seriously the welfare of workers in their thoughts and policies. We will continue to identify as well as work with them.

“The pursuit by many governors to pay workers whatever they like deepens poverty and causes varying dimensions of insecurity.

“The governors are carried away by their present structure of security detail, but the sword of Damocles awaits them on exit from office.

“It is unfortunate that workers’ salaries are often seen as charity rather than the hard-earned income of hardworking Nigerians.

“It is equally painful that some of these governors fail to realise that workers’ salaries substantially drive the economy. Not surprisingly, they prioritise their greed over the need of ordinary citizens.

“The fate of Nigerian workers cannot be left solely in the hands of employers, whether public or private. No sane society does that.

“What the governors are asking for is akin to allowing numerous companies and organisations in Nigeria to pay workers whatever they like.

“While these companies may not pay the same salaries, they must adhere to the national wage floor, and the same should apply to state governors.”

The statement added: “We urge President Tinubu who had promised a living wage (which is superior to a minimum wage) not to allow himself be blackmailed or boxed into a corner by unpatriotic governors.

“We urge the federal government to stop dithering on the issue of the national minimum wage because of the gang up by some selfish governors.”

The NLC urges governors to abandon any inclination towards dictatorial practices as the process remains a tripartite one.

“Accordingly, we call for policies and actions driven by equity and fairness.

“Ensuring a fair minimum wage is not only a matter of economic justice but also a fundamental aspect of maintaining social stability and national cohesion.

“Nigerian workers should not be reduced to beggars! Enough is enough!

“Finally, NLC stands firm in its commitment to protecting the rights and welfare of Nigerian workers.

“We will continue to advocate for a fair and equitable wage system that reflects the true spirit of our nation’s values.

“We call on the Governors to join us in this commitment for the benefit of all Nigerians. Let democracy flourish.”

NECA boss faults Labour, insists governors can make suggestions

The Director General of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, yesterday expressed concern over the stance of organised labour in the ongoing minimum wage talks with the federal and state governments.

Oyerinde, who was reacting to the view in some quarters that the talks may have broken down irretrievably as a result of the differing views expressed by labour and state governments, said the latter have the right to make suggestions as to how much they can pay, but with a caveat that they must not pay below the agreed national minimum wage.

Speaking with our correspondent last night, Oyerinde said: “The Governors’ Forum has the right to decide and express their views and whatever they express there is still a constitution that we all have to subject ourselves to.

“Labour is in the exclusive list of the constitution, which puts labour issues at the purview of the Federal Government. Until it gets to the concurrent list of the constitution, that is when each of the state governments can deal with labour.

“So the suggestion by the Governors’ Forum is legal and they are well within their rights to make such suggestions.

“But the constitutional democracy that we are currently running says labour is in the Exclusive list. So for us at NECA, there’s no ambiguity in it.”

On what obtains in other climes, the NECA boss said there is also a national minimum wage which serves as a barometer for deciding what other sectors pay.

“In the USA and some other countries, there is always a national minimum wage and the states can fix their own minimum wage. But the only thing is that nobody fixes below the national minimum wage.”

While interrogating the minimum wage template suggested by the organised labour, Oyerinde took the latter to the cleaners.

“That’s where labour got it wrong. You don’t come up with a figure that is so outrageous and that puts the state governments in jeopardy. Part of the reaction of that conversation is what we are seeing.

“The agitations for state minimum wage will continue until we get it right.”

Oyerinde revealed that the Tripartite Committee has since sent its recommendations to President Tinubu for his inputs and onward transmission to the National Assembly for a closure on the matter.

He however reiterated that although the governors can offer suggestions as to how to pay the minimum wage but would be until such a time the national minimum wage is decided.

Jigawa will negotiate its own minimum wage, says Gov Namadi

The Governor of Jigawa State, Umar Namadi, says his government will negotiate a new minimum wage for workers in the state.

The governor, who spoke during a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, yesterday, said irrespective of whatever the federal government decided as the new minimum wage, his government would negotiate with workers in the state on what to pay them.

“We cannot say what we can offer because it is a matter of negotiation,” he said

“Jigawa has not agreed on any figure because we have not even started the negotiation.

“We put up a tripartite committee including the labour and stakeholders and we work together and then we agree on a figure,” Governor Namadi said, arguing that such has been the practice in the state.

FG must encourage productivity –Aremu

In the view of Prof. Jonathan Adeyemi Aremu, a renowned economist, it is rather appalling that the minimum wage talks are still lingering after several weeks of back and forth.

Waxing philosophical, Aremu said money is not what people are asking for but a better life.

“Again, should they continue increasing salaries of people? Let me say this one, that there will be no end to asking for higher money if the economy is not well managed.

“You don’t need to carry too much paper money to be able to feed. If the economy is well managed so that the price level will not rise, the Naira will not be bad, please, there will not be any need for all these things.”

Aremu, who had a successful career at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where he rose from the position of Assistant Economist in 1980 to become the Acting Assistant Director of Research and resigned in 1992, added: “I think the focus of government and that of labour should be how do you want to manage the economy so that this issue of price increases that is eroding our welfare will no longer be there? That is it.

“But a situation in which the macroeconomic policies continue to be bad, labour will soon ask for one million.  So there will not be any limit to paper money that is being requested for.

“What we are saying is, can we have better productivity? Can the farmers go to farm? Can we export so that we have more foreign exchange? And then Naira has an appreciation. These are the issues.

“There will not be any limit to asking for money if there is continuous crisis in production level so that we don’t have enough product for people to buy, so that Naira is not well managed in a way in which the dollar will not continue to be against Naira.

“So what can government do so that we can have the macroeconomic policy objectives in terms of price level, in terms of inflation, in terms of employment, and in terms of growth?

“What can we do so that those four basic things can actually be stabilised? If they are stabilised, there will not be any need for all these crises.”

The government, he reiterated, “needs to pay attention to a number of issues. Farmers must be able to go to farm, by making sure all these banditry activities stop so that farmers can return to farm and prices of foodstuff can come down”.

According to him, a situation where people will be asking for more money and more paper will be printed by the Central Bank will never augur well for the economy.

“People want to eat, want to wear clothes and they want to send their children to school. That is the issue. And the answer is not that we open the gate so that more food will come in. For God’s sake, where will we get that money to exchange?

“When we are owed a lot, both externally and internally, I think that we should face productivity in the country. The way in which companies are rushing out of the economy is not good.”

The Nation

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