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6 Jun 2018

NLC, Ngige Disagree On Implementation Date For New Minimum Wage

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige have disagreed over the possibility of implementing a new national Minimum wage in September this year.
While President of NLC insists that the tripartite committee on minimum wage set an August/September date for the minimum wage, the Minister said the September date for workers to receive the minimum wage is not feasible in view of the long processes involved.

The Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) has however warned against putting a particular timeline on the conclusion and eventual implementation of the minimum wage, but expressed confidence that the entire process should be concluded before the end of the year.

Addressing newsmen after addressing the plenary at the ongoing 107th session International Labour Conference, President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said if all members of the tripod are committed to doing what is right and working within the timeline already set for itself, the minimum wage can be achieved in September.

He said “clearly speaking, if we are to go by the timeline which the tripartite committee represented by government, employers and workers are able to work assiduously towards it, it is something that is deliverable and can be achieved. So, we are still keeping faith with the process.”

According to him, the minimum wage committee set a timeline for itself which it is committed to, adding that “Labour represented by NLC and TUC are committed to following that timetable and timeline.”

“We made that very clear from the beginning after the inauguration of the committee because the first thing they did was to look at the scope of the work and the time it will take for us to deliver, to complete the tripartite negotiation and make sure that we are able to deliver a comprehensive report.

“Given the process of give and take, with the commitment we have also received from the National Assembly, I don’t think that the centrality of the issue require any delay. So as Organised Labour, we are committed to the timeline that the committee has set for itself. The timeline is August/September and we have said that very clearly.” He said as the process goes on, organised labour will constantly will consult its organs and constituents and will be able to push the process through any other means that is legitimately allowed by law.

He said further that “at the tripartite committee, once it is agreed, we also know the process. It not about your willingness to pay, but the desirability and the fact that workers deserve decent wages.

Clearly speaking, there is no time that employers has offered willingly as Father Christmas increases in salaries to workers. It has always been through demand and contestations.” “So, when we reach the bridge, they will also see reason because if they want workers to be productive, they must be able to take care of their families.

People seek for employment so that they will have decent living. Nobody seek job for the sake of being Father Christmas. These are the areas of contestations. So, it is not about how you feel, but what is supposed to be done.

“Once there is the will and the negotiations are concluded and a figured agreed by the tripartite, the entire process involved in making it a law can be concluded within a very short period. The one that we did in 2011 did not take up to one month for the entire process to be completed.

“We have also received firm commitment from the leadership of the National Assembly that once a law that is agreeable is transmitted to them, they will be able to facilitate the process. So, if there is the good will, all these processes can be concluded in good time and workers will then be able to benefit from it.

“But if there is no good will, then the issue of delay and all manner of excuses can be given. But our faith is that we are committed to the process and workers are waiting very anxiously to benefit because it is also long overdue.

At the last negotiation, we all agreed to the five year timeline. This is the context of what we are considering”. Addressing the plenary session of the ILO earlier, Wabba said that the rank of the working poor in Nigeria was expanding, thus exacerbating household, generational and gender poverty.

However, while saying that he was quoted out of contest in earlier reports that the minimum wage may not be feasible by September, Minister of Labour said “the truth of the matter is that there is a work programme for the minimum wage committee. And by that schedule of work, we are supposed to terminate our own work in that committee first week of September. “After you have done that, you will now take your recommendation to government.

After doing that, the executive arm of government will take your recommendation to the Federal Executive Council because it concerns those in states, people in the state will now take it to National Economic Council, which is the council in charge of the economy of Nigeria. So these bodies will then look at the recommendation and then forward the final distillate to the National Assembly.

“It is the National Assembly that has power to make laws. But we can forward to them as executive bills. That is what the constitution says. So, I do not see all these taking place in September. That was why I said the date of September for a worker to receive new minimum wage is not feasible.

“However, that is not to say if everyone puts in their best and we put it on a fast track, we cannot consummate it before the end of the year. And when we consummate it before the end of the year, it has to be budgeted for. So, the money will go in either as supplementary budget or 2019 budget.”

On his part, Director General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) said putting a definite timeline on the issue of the new minimum wage may be counterproductive. He said employers of labour in the country “have been the good boy over the years as far as minimum wage is concern.

What we are doing now is to give expression to the issue if social dialogue in the context of negotiation. The private sector in Nigeria has been one firm believer in collective bargaining. “In fact, we have been able to adhere to the principles and value of collective bargaining more than the government.

We have demonstrated good faith in the outcome of collective bargaining by implementing the outcome of such collective bargaining from time to time. “So, the whole idea of discussing the national minimum wage is not strange to us because we have taken part in it in time past and employers in Nigeria have been very faithful to the outcome of past national minimum wage.

“I can assure you that just as we have done in time last, our employers will still keep that good reputation which they have as law keepers as soon as the national minimum wage is legislated into law. So, we all look forward to the conclusion of the negotiations which I think should be sooner than later.

“But we must be careful in trying to set specific date or specific timeline for the discussions going on because the dynamics of negotiations and bargaining is such that you can just speculate, but you cannot be definitive as to when it will end. But one thing that we as employers are quite sure of is that before the end of the year, we should be able to finish the entire process of discussing the national minimum wage”.

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