The Federal Government will expedite action to ensure that a new minimum wage is ready by the second quarter of the year, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has promised.At the 2018 May Day celebration in Abuja, yesterday, he also assured stakeholders that delays in the payment of salaries and pensions would end, as the welfare of workers would be prioritised.
"The argument for a national minimum wage cannot be faulted, 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 the principles of social justice, equity, and fairness. We believe that those who can pay above the social protection floor are free to do so, as many have been doing in many states and sectors of the economy," he said.
Osinbajo was hopeful that the "Tripartite Committee, comprising government, labour, and the private sector, will expedite its assignment, to enable the Federal Government to present an executive bill on a new national minimum wage to the National Assembly for passage into law, as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Federal Government and the state governments will continue to work together to improve the conditions of workers across the country."
And while the new wage is still in the works, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), yesterday, insisted that all employers across the country must pay it. Its president, Ayuba Wabba, said the payment would no longer be restricted to employers that have 50 workers or above. He also stated that the labour movement would resist renegotiation of the wage by state governments or employers in the private sector.
"We have also proposed that the minimum wage law should apply to all workers and not be restricted only to establishments with 50 workers and above. We have also demanded that there should be minimum pension for our retired workers and senior citizens who currently, in some cases, are receiving N2000 as monthly pension. We insist that once the Minimum Wage Act is signed into law, all employers in public and private sectors must pay at once. We shall stand with those willing to pay more than the minimum. We shall resist any move to renegotiate the minimum wage at any level," he said.
Wabba urged the Federal Government to ensure federal allocations are not released to states and local governments that refuse to implement the new wage, warning: "We are battle-ready against public and private organisations that would refuse to conform to the new minimum wage. At our disposal is the power of our votes! We shall ensure that governments that refuse to pay the new minimum wage will not receive the support of the working class, pensioners and their families."
He argued that the N66,500 being demanded by labour as national minimum wage would at best meet only the basic needs of the average Nigerian worker, if inflation is kept at a single digit.
The President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Kaigama, on his part, declared that labour would resist the five per cent petrol tax levy inserted into the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
"Why is it coming now that Nigerians are going through excruciating pains from the mismanagement of the economy? What is the necessity of the marginal levy when Nigeria has not fully broken the shackles of fuel scarcity?" Kaigama asked, adding: "If the National Assembly cannot lessen our burden, they should not make it worse. That levy has to be removed immediately. The excuse that the money would be used to fund the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) is not tenable."
He faulted the idea of a single regulator for the Nigerian oil and gas industry, saying: "We reiterate that government should ensure that the oil and gas industry operates in line with international best practices in the interest of the nation, more particularly, on technical and commercial regulations. The need for two independent regulators as obtained prior to the proposed PIGB, one for the upstream and one for the downstream sectors, (should) be maintained."
He called for the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to superintend the downstream sector, having had the relevant experience, structure and personnel, while the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) oversees the upstream sector.
Kaigama added: "The Federal Government must see the issue of electricity as a priority. The future still looks bleak and gloomy. The investors have failed in most of their undertaking so far, and are even arm-twisting the government to cover up their failure."We urge government to hold these investors to account and stop treating them with kid gloves. They must comply with the agreement they signed in their contracts with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). Excuses must stop. The contracts should be reviewed immediately. We need real investors to take over the power sector. This so-called privatisation has failed."
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) also issued its May Day message, calling on the National Assembly to put in place legislations addressing disregard by indigenous and marginal field operators for the constitution, extant labour laws and international conventions to which Nigeria is signatory.
In a statement to mark the day, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, promised: "The National Assembly will give expeditious passage to the Minimum Wage Bill whenever it is transmitted by the executive, and any other initiative that will promote the welfare of the Nigerian worker. We will support it wholeheartedly."
He acknowledged "the importance of workers to the growth and prosperity of our dear nation, Nigeria," stressing: "We see the struggles you go through to survive on wages that can barely last through the first week of the month. We see your dedication to doing your bit in ensuring that Nigeria continues to run effectively, in spite of unfavourable conditions. We commend your courage, your commitment to service and nation-building, and urge you to continue supporting government policies and agenda."
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), meanwhile, felicitated with workers in the country, calling on labour and trade unions to "continue ongoing dialogue with the government aimed at improving salaries and general welfare."In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party celebrated the workers "for staying positive and being a partner in nation-building, as well as contributing towards efforts to take the country to its deserved heights."
It added: "Unarguably, the Nigerian worker remains one of the most dedicated, resilient and hardworking in the world. They remain a key driver of the country's multi-faceted development."This came as Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday, praised relations between labour and the Lagos State Government. According to him, "It is on record that we have never, since the inception of this administration, had any dispute with the organised labour. And I will be the first to admit that the labour unions in Lagos State have been most responsible and at the same time dogged in their advocacy for the promotion of the interests of workers in Lagos State, both in the public and private sectors."
At the celebration in Agege Stadium, Ambode stressed that agitations and struggles must be focused on realistic goals pursued in appreciation of the competing interests government has to continually balance.He urged labour leaders to mobilise their members to collect Permanent Voter Cards (PVC). It is imperative for the labour movement to see itself as a constructive partner of the government in ensuring peace and harmony in the society before, during, and after the conduct of the forthcoming general elections, said the governor.
Referring to the workers as "development and growth partners," Ambode noted: "The labour movement should not only enquire after what workers can get from the government, but also what workers can further contribute to support the government in making a difference in the lives of the people.
"We have continued to partner the leaders of the TUC and the NLC, and we will continue to consider all the requests of labour, as we work together for the peace, progress and prosperity of all workers in Lagos State, all Lagosians, and our state."The Chairmen of the NLC and TUC, Comrades Idowu Adelakun and Ogunremi Omoniyi, commended the governor for paying workers' salaries duly. They nevertheless called on the government to give renewed attention to waste management and the supply of pipe-borne water.