What workers expect from minimum wage committee

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday inaugurated a 30-member committee to negotiate a new minimum wage for workers. In this report , MOSES JOHN speaks with the nation’s workers on their expectation
Minimum wage Act
The National Minimum wage law stipulates that it shall be reviewed every five years. The current national minimum wage of N18000 was signed into law by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2011.
The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act, 2011 was enacted to amend some Sections of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2004 by providing for a new national minimum wage for the entire country, and regulating matters relating to the national minimum wage in Nigeria.
Section 1 of the Act states that as from the commencement of this Act, it shall be the duty of every employer (except as provided for under the Principal Act as amended) to pay a wage not less than the national minimum wage of NI8,000.00 per month to every worker under his establishment”..

Level of implementation
However, stakeholders are of the view that the current minimum wage of N18000 is poor, considering the fact that many state governments vowed they can’t pay the sum.
They lament that governors and other employers of labour see their employees as liability, instead of partners in progress.
With the constitution of this 30-member tripartite committee to renegotiate the current minimum wage, Nigerians are expected to have a new national minimum wage soon. But the question remains on whether or not it would be implemented.

Buhari on Nigerian workers
Speaking during the inauguration of the committee, President Muhammadu Buhari said, “we are gathered here today to address issues concerning the welfare of the Nigerian people. Like his counterpart all over the world, the Nigerian worker is a vital element in the growth and development of modern nations.
“We all know that the last Minimum Wage Instrument has expired, and it is in recognition of the need to ensure a fair and decent living wage that the Federal Government put in motion necessary mechanism so that we can today inaugurate this large committee with a big task ahead of you.
“You are all aware that during the period following the increase in Petrol Pump Price in May 2016, a Technical Committee was established to examine and make recommendations to government on the measures to be adopted to cushion the envisaged painful effects of the increase on workers and the Nigerian populace at large.
“During the deliberations of the Technical Committee which comprised Government and Organized Labour, the need for the review of the National Minimum Wage was highlighted and recommendation to set up a committee to look into the level of minimum wage was made accordingly. I am glad that the recommendation is being acted upon today and we can all acknowledge that this is in line with our democratic process. I wish to thank all those who participated in that exercise.”
“Considering the scope of the membership of this new National Minimum Wage Committee we can see that it is encompassing all stakeholders. My hope is that, the outcome of the deliberations of the Committee would be consensual and generally acceptable.
“I therefore urge you to amicably consider the issue of a National Minimum Wage and all matters that are ancillary to it with thoroughness and concern not only for the welfare of our work-force but the effect on the country’s economy.
“The subject of a National Minimum Wage for the Federation is within the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Accordingly, we should aim to go above the basic Social Protection Floor for all Nigerian workers based on the ability of each tier of Government to pay.
“I say this because minimum wage is the minimum amount of compensation an employee must receive for putting in his or her labour and as such should be anchored on Social Justice and Equity.
“Government’s decision after considering your final recommendation will be sent as an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for it to undergo appropriate legislative scrutiny before passage into law. As is evident by the membership of the Committee, State Governors and Private Sector Employers are part of this process. This will ensure ease of implementation of a new Minimum Wage nationwide.
“I am hopeful that the principles of full consultation with Social Partners and their direct participation would be utilized by the Committee, bearing in mind the core provisions of the International Labour Organisation Minimum Wage Fixing Convention No. 131 and Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention No.26 (ratified by Nigeria). Accordingly, conditions of genuine Social Dialogue should prevail in the spirit of Tripartism and Collective Bargaining Agreements. I therefore enjoin you all to collectively bargain in good faith, have mutual recognition for each other and always in a spirit of give and take.
“The Committee is expected to complete its deliberations and submit its report and recommendations as soon as possible to enable other requisite machinery to be set in motion for implementation of a new National Minimum Wage,” the president further added.

Committee membership
The membership of the tripartite committee are Mrs. Ama Pepple as chairman, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, vice chairman, and Chief Richard Egbule, Chairman, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, is to serve as Secretary of the committee.
Other members of the committee are Udo Udo Ufuoma, Minister, Budget and national Planning, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun Minister of Finance, Mrs. Winifred E. Oyo – Ita, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Roy Ugo, Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, Office of these secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Membership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) are Governor Rauf Aregbesola Osun State, Rochas Okorocha Imo State Hassan Dankwambo, Gombe State, Nyesom Wike Rivers State, Simon Lalong Plateau State and Abubakar Atiku Bagudu Kebbi State while

A. B. Okauru, Esq., DG, NGF will serve as an observer.
Representing Labour are the ‎ NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, Comrade Kiri Mohammed, Comrade Amechi Asugwuni and Comrade (Dr.) Peter Ozo-Eson . Others are Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama President, Trade Union Congress, Comrade Sunday Olusoji Salako, Comrade Alade Bashir Lawal, and Comrade Igwe Achese President, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG).
For the Employers’ are Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo, Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Timothy Olawale, Mr. Chuma Nwankwo, and Mrs. Olubunmi Adekoje Director General, Federation of Construction Industry (FOCI).
Others are Alhaji Ahmed Ladan Gobir, Chairman, Kaduna East Branch, Manufacturers’ Association (MAN), Otunba Francis Oluwagbenro MAN, Hajia Muheeba Dankaka, OON President, Kano Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Prince Degun Agboade President, Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME).

Workers expectations
In the view of a cross section of workers who spoke with our correspondent, labour should ensure the planned minimum wage is implemented by employers of labour. They lamented a situation whereby many state governments refused to pay even the N18000, thereby subjecting workers to untold hardship.
According to them, there should be time line for the committee to conclude their assignment, rather than taking eternity before Nigerians can enjoy the new wage.
Speaking in this regard, Chairman of NLC in FCT, Comrade Yahaya Abdullahi, said anything less than whatever NLC is asking for, should be rejected. While noting that the cost of living has astronomically gone high, the labour leader said only a living wage can get the country out of recession.
Similarly, the Assistant General Secretary of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Comrade Placidus Nnamani lauded government’s effort. ” I believe that they have taken a very good step, at least to show Nigerians and the world that they are interested in workers welfare. Also I expect them to give this committee an open hand to make a wide consultation to achieve a proper negotiation, and not by having an already hidden plan.
“I know that both the federal government and Labour have their target on what figure is proper for Nigerian workers. However, this proposal was made long ago and with the situation on ground, such figure is no longer appropriate.”
Also, President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Comrade Francis Olabode Johnson on his part warned the tripartite committee not to take eternity to come up with its recommendation.
“There should be a timeline. Let them know that Nigerian workers are groaning under harsh economic condition which has eroded the current minimum wage, even though the major concern is not the law but implementation. There must be a mechanism to criminalise any employer that defaulted in the payment of national minimum wage.”
But Comrade Abdul Hakeem Abiyu, former chairperson of Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the FCT, believes nothing is coming out of the committee. “I have zero expectations from the committee. The Organised Labour should go and ask state governors to pay the salary arrears. They should demand from many of those governors that have not implemented the 18,000 Naira minimum wage to do so immediately.
“How many of NLC and TUC state chairpersons have been able to enforce the 18000 Naira minimum wage? Let labour enforce the immediate implementation of the 18000 Naira minimum wage and the immediate payment of every worker and pensioner that is being owed by almost every state governor with the exception of Governor Obiano of Anambra state.
That is what should be our priority now, instead of a new minimum wage that won’t be implemented ten years after it is signed into law.
“My position on the minimum wage issue is that , Labour should start thinking outside the box and be proactive rather than reactive.
“Despite the intervention through massive bailout from the Buhari-led administration to address the non payment of salaries and pensions by almost every state governor, the bailout was squandered and looted while labour looks the other way. That is what should be our priority now, instead of a new minimum wage that won’t be implemented ten years after it is signed into law”.
However, considering the membership of the tripartite committee which include both Federal, States, private and the organised labour, it is hoped that an all inclusive recommendations would be made for the betterment of Nigerians.

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