Federal Government’s promise to implement the new minimum wage in the third quarter of the year may face further hurdles as labor introduces fresh angle into the process. SUNDAY OJEME reports
The excitement over the likely implementation of the new minimum wage in the third quarter of the year may be down in the next few weeks going by developments bordering on labor’s decision to have the process reviewed in order to align with current economic realities. Months after the Federal Government gave the assurance, organized early this week, said it was presenting fresh demands to the Federal Government Tripartite Committee using current economic indices.
General Secretary, Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, said: “We have taken a position when we made the initial demand on the government, which is almost two years back. “But then, when we got to the tripartite committee and the committee called on all stakeholders to submit memorandum. “In response to the request for a memorandum, we then use current economic indices to make a fresh demand.
So, what we place and what we demand is an outcome of analysis we carried out. “We did the analysis using the current economic table and data of the nation and of cause, that came to something different. “We are going to maintain what is in the memorandum that we have submitted to the tripartite committee and it is not something or a figure we will be discussing in public, ‘’ he said.
He noted that the fresh demand was a joint memorandum by the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). “We formally submitted it at the last meeting of the tripartite committee. We have Also formally made the presentation to the committee and we have defended it. We have Also taken into account changes between the first demand and the current position,” I have added .
Threat to third quarter plan From the current position of labor, it is obvious that the third quarter of implementation of the new wage may not be feasible if the committee decides to look into the new recommendation. There are fears that it is also likely to provide room for the government to further delay the new wage, which it has reluctantly approved. It will be recalled that the leadership of labor movement finally made a headway last year as the struggle to increase the current minimum wage from N18,000 gained positive traction.
What is, however, not certain how much the employers including the federal and state government are ready to pay between the much-touted N56, 000 and N96,000 proposals by the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and the factional United Labor Congress ULC) respectively. Although the new wage is yet to be made public, a member of the committee had disclosed during an interaction that the committee was not likely to pick either of the wages put forward by labor.
I have made it clear that it would, however, be an acceptable proposal that will be acceptable to both the government and workers. According to the Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, “minimum wage is a national matter and only the federal government can legislate on it. Labor matter and the issue of national minimum wage are in the Exclusive List. President Buhari is monitoring it strictly, and I am monitoring it too. “
Apart from the anticipated hitches from fresh demands, there are also fears that the National Assembly might delay the process and possibly push it further into 2019. The apprehension stems from the fact that while inaugurating the committee, Buhari had said that after the completion of the work of the committee, an executive bill would be sent to the National Assembly “to undergo scrutiny before being passed into law.”
Mr Biobelemoye Joshua, who is the President, Medical and Health Workers Union, said the organization would not allow the government to use the minimum wage issue to score political point. He said that if the government employed delay tactics for any reason, labor would waste in the time in reacting. Having expressed satisfaction over the government’s position, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, believes that the implementation of the process will go a long way in filling the gaps workers had lost in the past
Wabba said the inauguration of the new minimum wage committee was long overdue, stressing that the committee should work immediately to cover the times that have been lost. “This is something that workers have long anticipated and our expectation is that we want a speedy process now that the facts of the issues are very obvious.
The current minimum wage of N18,000 approved in 2011 has waned over the years in terms of its purchasing power, “he said. “If you look at the exchange rate, the minimum wage of 2011 N18,000 When we signed the agreement, it was almost equivalent to N110 dollars; today, the N18,000 is less than 46 dollars.
So, this is the reality and with the purchasing power of ordinary Nigerian workers, with the high cost of transaction, our expectation is that the committee should look at the conditions of the Nigeria workers and pensioners. “ President Buhari had earlier corroborated Wabba’s position while he was inaugurating the committee when he said that the new national minimum wage had become imperative as the current wage had expired, noting, “minimum wage should be consensual and generally acceptable and should be anchored on social justice and equity. ‘’
The fresh demands are considered and integrated into the earlier recommendations, it is necessary to advise the government not to capitalize on the noble intention to further delay implementation of the much expected and long delayed new minimum wage.
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