Our patience is running out on new minimum wage – NLC Chairman

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ABUJA, JULY 3, 2017 – The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the understanding being exhibited by workers on the minimum wage issue should not be taken for granted.

In an interview with The Nation, he said: “There’s limit to the patience and understanding the workers can have on the issue of minimum wage,” warning that labour might be forced to react if the issue was not urgently addressed.

He said: “It is good for workers to express their fears on the issue of minimum wage, but it’s also good for leaders to be up and doing. For us in Organised Labour, it is an issue that we think that is long overdue and we have gotten commitment from all levels, including the National Assembly that this sue is addressed once and for all.

“You can even see that in the last one month, an action has been taken, the Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila proposed a bill to the effect that the issue of the review of minimum wage should be a provision of the law, because you are aware that in 2011, what we had was a tripartite agreement that after five years, the minimum wage will be reviewed.

“But they have even gone one step further by saying that it should not only end up in the tripartite agreement, it should be a product of law. And I think that all of them in the National Assembly, whom we have interfaced with, are ready to do the needful, including if there is supplementary budget today, that they are ready to give it accelerated hearing.

“Therefore, those fears are real, but we are working assiduously from our perspective to ensure that those issues are addressed. It is an issue that you need to bring to the attention of the governors, employers, government and Organised Labour. And you know businesses are for profits and anything that will take a dime out of their profits, they are ready to do everything possible to delay it. We are mindful of that. It’s not the first time we are treading this path, you remember in 2010, it was also the same process.

“But I think when the die is cast, all of us will then know that certainly, when the workers are pushed to the wall, there is a limit to patience and understanding. Certainly, a hungry person, however you explain to him, there is no basis how he will understand. So, we are looking at reality.”

Wabba said it was clear that N18,000 in the context of the economic reality could not take anyone for a week.

“ I assure you that we, on this side, will play our role very importantly so that we take into consideration some of the issues that our members have brought to our attention. But I think the important thing is that the process must start and we must see to the fact that this process must have a time-line where we can end it. We shouldn’t allow those workers to die first before the fruit of their labour will manifest,” he said.

On child labour , Wabba said there is a tripartite committee working to review the law, adding that the Nigeria law is not consistent with the ILO convention on child labour.

“There is the need to get that law reviewed because you can’t work outside the law, especially when it is a convention.

“And, especially the age that is being referred to as a child, our old law back at home is not actually consistent with the ILO convention. But as I speak with you, I think we are through with that law.

‘’We are working assiduously with the National Assembly. They are supposed to have had a public hearing on that law but because of the fact that at the last ILC meeting, we agreed that the law should be recovered from the NASS, the tripod should do a review and then send it back to the National Assembly for enactment. So, progress has been made,” Wabba said.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the understanding being exhibited by workers on the minimum wage issue should not be taken for granted.

In an interview with The Nation, he said: “There’s limit to the patience and understanding the workers can have on the issue of minimum wage,” warning that labour might be forced to react if the issue was not urgently addressed.

He said: “It is good for workers to express their fears on the issue of minimum wage, but it’s also good for leaders to be up and doing. For us in Organised Labour, it is an issue that we think that is long overdue and we have gotten commitment from all levels, including the National Assembly that this sue is addressed once and for all.

“You can even see that in the last one month, an action has been taken, the Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila proposed a bill to the effect that the issue of the review of minimum wage should be a provision of the law, because you are aware that in 2011, what we had was a tripartite agreement that after five years, the minimum wage will be reviewed.

“But they have even gone one step further by saying that it should not only end up in the tripartite agreement, it should be a product of law. And I think that all of them in the National Assembly, whom we have interfaced with, are ready to do the needful, including if there is supplementary budget today, that they are ready to give it accelerated hearing.

“Therefore, those fears are real, but we are working assiduously from our perspective to ensure that those issues are addressed. It is an issue that you need to bring to the attention of the governors, employers, government and Organised Labour. And you know businesses are for profits and anything that will take a dime out of their profits, they are ready to do everything possible to delay it. We are mindful of that. It’s not the first time we are treading this path, you remember in 2010, it was also the same process.

“But I think when the die is cast, all of us will then know that certainly, when the workers are pushed to the wall, there is a limit to patience and understanding. Certainly, a hungry person, however you explain to him, there is no basis how he will understand. So, we are looking at reality.”

Wabba said it was clear that N18,000 in the context of the economic reality could not take anyone for a week.

“ I assure you that we, on this side, will play our role very importantly so that we take into consideration some of the issues that our members have brought to our attention. But I think the important thing is that the process must start and we must see to the fact that this process must have a time-line where we can end it. We shouldn’t allow those workers to die first before the fruit of their labour will manifest,” he said.

On child labour , Wabba said there is a tripartite committee working to review the law, adding that the Nigeria law is not consistent with the ILO convention on child labour.

“There is the need to get that law reviewed because you can’t work outside the law, especially when it is a convention.

“And, especially the age that is being referred to as a child, our old law back at home is not actually consistent with the ILO convention. But as I speak with you, I think we are through with that law.

‘’We are working assiduously with the National Assembly. They are supposed to have had a public hearing on that law but because of the fact that at the last ILC meeting, we agreed that the law should be recovered from the NASS, the tripod should do a review and then send it back to the National Assembly for enactment. So, progress has been made,” Wabba said.

DCSL 90X780

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