As workers in the country mark the 2019 May Day today, there have been calls that the government at all levels should begin the implementation of the N30,000 new national minimum wage across the nation.
In an interview with The Guardian yesterday, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said the organised labour would today formally ask all employers of labour in the country to begin the payment of the new wage from this month.According to him, getting the new minimum wage law implemented is not a one-off process but one that requires diligence and accuracy.
"A law takes effect from the day it is signed. So, the minimum wage law takes effect from the 18th of April, 2019 when it was signed by the president. The actual implementation, when the money would be paid, including whatever arrears that are there, is a matter for individual employer's consultations with the relevant unions. That is how that would take place. As such, that sets the stage for actual implementation because while in some sectors there may not be difficulty at all and implementation will just go on unimpeded, we know that, particularly in respect to some states, there would be different levels of struggle that would still have to be executed in order to make the new wage a reality.
"This is because paying the minimum wage would require working out a salary table and how things fit into it. Each state is expected to deal with such situations, likewise at the federal level. So, these are the stages of struggles we are envisaging, but we are insisting that all these need to be sorted out very quickly so that actual implementation can start with the May 2019 salary," he said.
Zoo-Eson also hinted that the labour movement would continue to take hard stance on casualisation but would be methodological in its approach with a view to getting the best bargain for Nigerian workers.He said the NLC had signed memorandums of understanding with some employers as well as employment agencies to inculcate the spirit of decent work as spelt out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) relevant conventions.
"We have been engaged on the issue of casualisation for a very long time through a committee. We have even picketed a number of places. Some of those engagements have yielded results. For instance, at the Abuja Environmental Agency, we were able to get a memorandum of understanding signed that ensures casual workers are treated right.
"Apart from that, we are also working with companies that are involved in providing outsourcing services. We have also reached a memorandum of understanding with them such that whoever they employ and supply to places of work will be governed by all the issues of decent work, including guarantee of minimum wage and right to unionise," he stated.
Relatedly, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa urged his counterparts in other states to pay the new N30, 000 minimum wage to workers.Okowa, in an Interview with State House correspondents in Abuja yesterday said the new wage was long overdue, arguing that N18, 000 was no longer sustainable.
"We are actually going to pay the N30, 000; we have made our statement long before the new minimum wage was even approved. I actually believe that it's long overdue because N18, 000 is definitely not sustainable."I have told my colleagues and the NLC president that this time, we must understand what minimum wage is. It is not supposed to be a general salary increment. Those at the bottom of the rung should actually benefit much more than those at the top and it ought to be so," he said.
In Imo State, the Secretary to the Government, Mark Uchendu, advised the incoming administration of Emeka Ihedioha to give priority to the payment of salaries and pensions.The workers in the state under the aegis of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have been at loggerheads with the government over the non-payment of salary and pension arrears for months.
Uchendu told The Guardian in Owerri that soon, the state would suffer a heavy financial setback if efforts were not made to "accommodate the purging number of pensioners as well as regularise salary and pension payment."
"I will request the incoming administration to take this matter of payment of salaries and pensions seriously," the SSG promised.The Kaduna NLC called on workers to be more diligent and dedicated in their services to humanity as they await the payment of the N30,000 minimum wage, which it said would commence this month.
The State Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Sulaiman, made the call at a pre-May Day lecture held in Kaduna with the theme: "'Uniting Workers for Social and Economic Advancement."
He said the lecture was organised to mobilise workers towards the celebration of the International Workers Day and also enlighten them on the importance of the event.
"'During this celebration, we are offering solidarity to the cause of social justice, freedom of expression, human rights and the rule of law, and we are supporting democracy.'On May Day, we present our grievances, our needs, our agitations to the political class for succour, promote our unity and solidarity because strength lies in our unity," he said.
The lead presenter at the event, Mr. Isah Aremu, commended the NLC for fighting for the new minimum wage."We must be united so that we can bargain together or be divided and become beggars; we must have unity to create jobs, unity for prosperity against poverty, among others," he said.