Minimum wage bill: We’re ready for nationwide protests, Labour tells Reps

Blueprint Whatsapp

Nigeria’s organised labour has insisted that the House of Representatives should forget about the bill seeking to remove the National Minimum Wage from the exclusive legislative list, to the concurrent list of the 1999 Constitution.

 The bill, initiated in the House, had already passed second reading, even as the organised labour insisted it won’t fly.

“Our prayer goes to the leadership of the House of Representatives. We implore that this toxic and anti-masses bill should not enjoy any form of support from the honourable house of the Nigerian people – the House of Representatives. The bill should be killed immediately.

“Organised Labour will continue its current protest in all the states of the federation as a first line of action. Subsequently, if our elected political leaders remain adamant to the plea of Nigerian workers to retain the National Minimum Wage in the Exclusive Legislative List, we will have no other option but to withdraw our services. This will only be the beginning of popular resistance against this agenda of neo-colonization and mass enslavement of the Nigerian people”, labour stated Tuesday in its position paper presented to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila in Abuja.

But Gbajabiamila cautioned against any form of strike, assuring that “the House will do what is right”.

President  Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who led a delegation of labour leaders in response to Gbajabiamila’s invitation, said labour considered “this anti-workers’ bill as an attempt by a few self-seeking and narrow-minded politicians to return Nigeria to the era of slave wages, servile work conditions and severe industrial crisis.”
He said: “It was adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery through Convention 026 of 1928 and reinforced by Minimum Wage Fixing Convention 131 of 1970. It was also captured in Article III subsection (d) of the ILO Philadelphia Declaration.”

He noted that the cited conventions which demanded all the nations of the world to pursue policies in regard to wages, earnings, hours and other conditions of work calculated to ensure a just share of fruits of progress to all, and minimum living wage to all employed and in need of such protection”, and ratified by Nigeria, is a reason he said accounted for its inclusion in the exclusive items of the constitution.

Speaker pleads

In his response, Speaker Gbajabiamila said the House would not do anything to hurt Nigerian workers as the Green Chamber would always work in tandem with the yearnings and aspirations of the people.

The Speaker called on the organised labour to use advocacy and lobbying as tools to register its disagreement with legislative decisions and actions.

Gbajabiamila said those were the most potent tools deployed by labour in advanced democracies to score high points as against street protests or the casting of aspersions on members of the legislature.

He said the dust being raised by the Minimum Wage Bill could be addressed successfully during the public hearing, where all stakeholders, including labour unions, would have the opportunity to kick against the draft legislation.

“The fact is that I’m a labour-friendly Speaker, and I represent a labour-friendly House. I want us to agree, first of all, that whatever was debated on the issue of minimum wage, the contributions by each member were well-intended.

“When we begin to castigate members like that, it doesn’t pay us. No member will come up with something that he knows will be against the people.

“I want to tell you that we will do what we ought to do. You know me, and you know some of our members. If this hurts the Nigerian people, we’ll do the right thing,” he said.

He explained that the proponents of the bill were also concerned about the welfare of workers and sought how to resolve the age-long problem of irregular or non-payment of salaries by many states in the country.

Gbajabiamila informed the delegation that the fact of a bill being debated on the floor did not mean that the Legislature would pass it without “fully taking into account, the totality of the merits and demerits of the bill.”

He noted that where the demerits weighed heavily against a bill, the House had the only option of stopping such a bill.

He spoke more: “In arresting a piece of legislation, because we are talking democracy here, you can do it through advocacy; you can do it at the public hearing.

“I had a bill as the Speaker of the House that suffered the same fate – the Infectious Diseases Bill. It went through a public hearing and now we have removed some things from the bill; we listened to Nigerians and now you won’t find some of those things anymore.

“I would have loved a situation where you made your case at the public hearing or through advocacy in the media.”

He added that the Minimum Wage Bill, being a constitutional amendment bill, will take a very long journey through the House, the public hearing, the Senate and the State Houses of Assembly before eventually making its way to the Presidency for possible assent by Mr President.

Gbajabiamila assured the delegation that at whatever point it became clear that the bill did not receive the support of the majority of lawmakers and Nigerians, it would “definitely” be stood down.

He appealed to the labour leadership to shelve its plan for further street protests or calling out workers to embark on industrial action.

Islamic group backs Labour

 Meanwhile, theMuslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria (MMWG) has declared its support for the NLC on its demand that National Minimum Wage should not be moved from exclusive list to concurrent list.

 In a statement by its National Coordinator, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi in Lagos Monday night, the MMWG said such a step would pauperise the Nigerian public service workers, increase poverty and aggravate untold hardship on civil servants across the country.

Abdullahi also cautioned some politicians against what it described as selfish and materialistic tendencies of some of them which had blindfolded them to treat public servants as slaves.

 The group said: “ Inability of some states to pay approved National Minimum Wage of N30,000 signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari stems from governors’ lack of concern for the state workers, corruption in the system featuring under-inflated contracts, humongous and unaccountable monthly Security Votes by states administration, ghost workers syndrome both at the states and local governments, large number of idle political appointees and lack of holistic desire to improve IGR at the states level.”

Related content you may like

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply