Ahead of the planned nationwide strike, the authorities of the Nigerian Labour have cried out and accused the federal government of threatening the organized private sector.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday, accused the federal government of resorting to threatening members of the organised private sector to disown the N30,000 figure agreed to at the end of the meeting of the tripartite committee on the new National minimum wage, saying Labour may be forced to revert back to its original demand of N66,500.
President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba who spoke at a news conference in Abuja, denounced the current stand of state governors under the Nigeria Governors Forum, challenging them to go back to their various states, gather their workers and tell them that they cannot pay the new minimum wage and how much they can pay and see the reaction of their workers.
Wabba said the current grandstanding by the governor was a way of seeking more money from the federal government and a subtle blackmail against the federal government as they want to go back home and tell their workers that it is the federal government that is not willing to pay the new figure.
He drew attention to comments by individual governors that they will be willing to pay whatever is agreed upon by the tripartite committee, stressing that throughout the process of negotiation, the governors were fully represented by six governors.
He reminded the governors that the Nigeria Governors Forum is not known to law and the process of collective bargaining, adding that what is known to law is the individual states, pointing out that the offer of N22,500 by the governors was not accepted by Organised Labour.
He said further that since the government is now presenting fresh figure, Organized Labour May be forced to revert back to the old figures it presented before N30,000 was agreed upon through a process of collective bargaining.
Wabba said: “we wish to state that the Nigeria Governors Forum is not a negotiating body but merely a political organization for the convenience of state governors. The tripartite committee from inception sent letters to each state government to send in their memoranda as their contributions to the new national minimum wage negotiating process. 21 States sent in their memorandum quoting figures.
“Second, the demand of organized labour is not N30,000. Our demand is N66,500. N30,000 is the compromise figure arrived at the end of negotiations by the tripartite partners – Government, Employers and Organized Labour. The new minimum wage was a product of intense negotiations that lasted for almost one year.
“It was mutually agreed at the concluding meeting of the negotiating committee on the 5th of October this year. So, this is the stand of organised labour. Minimum wage is not an allocation or an award. It is negotiated,. So, the long process of arriving at a figure is a tripartite process.
“The figure that has come out of the governors forum is a mere pronouncement and has no place in a collective bargaining machinery provided by the various ILO conventions and our national laws. What the law recognises is a tripartite negotiation. Six governors represented the governors and so, they have been part of the process where decision was made.
“At this point, labour wants to reiterate that the figure that has been allocated by the governors is hereby rejected because it has no place in collective bargaining process.
“One more thing we need put in proper perspective isn’t he claim by thgovernors that workers in Nigeria are merely five percent. But the question is what is the population of the political class compared to the population of Nigeria. These five percent workers constitute the workforce and therefore you cannot over look their contribution to national development.
“Health workers take care of the entire population and therefore is about human beings and not only about building infrastructure. You build infrastructure so that human beings can use it. You cannot undermine the contribution of Nigerian workers who create the wealth.
“It is very petty to say that the working class is merely five percent. Let them tell us the number that they constitute in the context of Nigerians workforce. Globally, it is this same workers that service the economy.
“For example, you cannot advance issues mod education without looking at the centrality of the teacher. It is crude to now denigrate and undermine workers and call the, merely five percent of the population. This is unfortunate and therefore, we stand by our earlier position that on what was agreed we stand. Outside that, we will revert to our earlier demand of N66500.
“We are also aware that intense pressure has been out on some members of the organised private sector especially NACCIMA who were forced to issue a statement under duress. I spoke to the lady, Haha Maheeba who disputed what was published today by many newspapers as her position.
“I am aware that NECA, the umbrella body of organised private sector will issue an official statement. Nobody can go out of a collective bargaining process and begin to advance falsehood or bend he truth.
“We stand by that and all of us just be careful the way we report information. She told me that somebody high in government called her to do a statement because sent he conclusion of the exercise, she was not there and cannot make any statement to that effect.
“I am sure NECA will make a forma, statement to confirm whether there was a conclusion of the meeting and an agreement reached. I want to say that just just as as the NLC has pronounced that without making sure the issue of N30000 which was mutually agreed through a well known process is accepted send put into law, the action that has been proposed from November 6 will take effect.
“We are in a society where people use every opportunity to extort money and I think that is what the governors have tried to do. They want to explore the demand for a new minimum wage to see if they can get more money from the federal government.
“The current minimum wage of N18000 has expired since 2016 and workers have been patient and unions have played their role. So, workers should not be taken for granted for being patient.
“Therefore, we want to say clearly now that every governor should go back to their state which is he entity recognised by law, gather their workers and say they cannot pay N30000 and not come to Abuja hide under a forum that is not recognised by law and say they cannot pay N30000.
“Interestingly, individual governors have gone back to answer their names by saying whatever is agreed, they are ready to pay. I want to call on Mr. President to be aware of this mischief. They want to go back to their states and tell their workers that it is the Presidency that is not willing to pay, but that they will be willing to pay whatever is accepted.
“Let there be this understanding that this forum has non legitimacy whatsoever in the context of collective bargaining process of law. What is recognised by law is individual states. So let them go back and tell their workers what they will be willing to pay and see the reaction. This will put the whole argument into contest and every body will know where things are.
“We will continue to respect collective bargaining process and whatever has been agreed through that process will be respected. Aside that, if they are not willing to respect that, labour is willing to revert back to our initial demand of N66,500 which wasn’t he initial demand nor labour. We want to tell Nigerians that workers have been very patient despite the very difficult challenges.
“In the entire West Africa today, despite being the best economy, our minimum wage is the least, yet, out political elites including the governors receive the highest salary in Africa. Where is the justice and fairness.
“Where is also the issue of ability to pay if state governors and mother political office holders across the county near the same salary. Who is more Important? We are resolute that there must be fairness and justice and there must be respect for the rule of law.
“Let me say that if this minimum wage is not reviewed with the context of collective bargaining, the law has been violated because we are already two years in arrears. Even if we are to pay interest on the new figure, what will that Be? We should put the facts before the public.
“We must expose this idea of threatening the private sector like they did with NACCIMA must be exposed because that is not what is expected in a process of free collective bargaining.
“What is going on is an attack on workers rights and trade union rights and this is unprecedented because this has never happened before because collective bargaining agreements are usually respected in other to have industrial peace and development.
“Like I say, we stand by the figures that has been agreed upon, but if everyone is reverting to figure prior to when we agreed in 30000 then organised labour will have no choice than to revert to our earlier demand. If governor will now start advancing new figures and then federal government doing same, nothing stop organised labour from doing same.”