Reducing Workers Minimum Wage Is A Declaration Of War – NLC Warns

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has warned that attempts by the 36 governors of the federation to slash the N18,000 minimum wage over their inability to meet the wage obligations to workers will amount to a declaration of war.
In a statement on Sunday, NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, expressed concern over the move by the governors, who met under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) last week and made the pronouncement at the end of their meeting, to reduce the minimum wage.
He said: “The Nigeria Labour Congress is shocked by the statement credited to the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari, that the N18,000 national minimum wage promulgated into law in 2011 was no longer sustainable because of the fall in the price of crude oil.
“The governor who was speaking on behalf of his colleagues at the end of a meeting of the forum also claimed that the national minimum wage was ‘imposed’.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this attempt to reverse the national minimum wage is a declaration of war against the working people of this country, and we would have no alternative than to mobilise to respond to this act of aggression by the political class on our welfare.
“For the record, the 2011 National Minimum Wage Act came into existence after almost two years of agitation and negotiation by the tripartite of government (represented by both the federal and state governments), the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) representing other employers (in the private sector) and organised labour.
“This is in the best tradition of a tripartite negotiation recognised and codified by the International Labour Organisation.
“As organised labour, we submitted a request for N52,000 and provided justification for it as the minimum wage which a worker and his recognised legal dependents need to live a healthy life over 30 to 31 days in a month.”
According to him, it was out of labour’s “patriotic disposition and consideration” that the unions reluctantly agreed to the N18,000 minimum wage, even though they deemed it grossly inadequate as a living wage.
“Many of the state governments who submitted memoranda to the tripartite negotiating committee recommended figures that were far above the N18,000 that was eventually agreed.
“The governors cannot therefore want Nigerians to take them seriously by their present claim that the current national minimum wage was ‘imposed’ on them!
“For us in the Nigeria Labour Congress, we know as a fact that their ability to pay minimum wages is not the problem of the economy. The problem for states and other tiers of government is what the high number of political office holders and their unproductive aides take away as wages.
“For the private sector, the creed to accumulate more and more profit is also always a motivating factor to keep wages down.
“Similarly, we have been in the forefront of campaigning that the cost of governance at all levels needs to be drastically cut to free enough resources for development.
“The hundreds of billions of naira our public office holders continue to fritter away in the name of governance is what is not sustainable,” the NLC president observed.
He added that the annual cost to the public purse of governors’ security votes, which is an unaccountable drain on public resources, translated to several thousands of minimum wages per state.
“Secondly, Nigerians who have the means to travel by air would recall that in the last six to ten years, majority, if not all our governors no longer use commercial airlines as a means of transportation.
“They now have ‘official’ aircraft and helicopters, which they maintain at huge costs to the state treasury. Their less ‘fortunate’ counterparts charter aircraft and helicopters at millions of naira to attend all manner of functions from marriages to child naming ceremonies,” he charged.
Wabba contended that the states are in the poor financial state they are in largely because of the choices their governors have made, largely on the basis of priorities they have chosen, adding that these have nothing to do with the public good.
“Workers’ salaries cannot be sacrificed on the altar of challenges of the economy which is not the making of workers.
“It has never happened in the history of our country, and it will not be said that it is during our leadership of the Nigerian labour movement that this calamity was allowed to happen to Nigerian workers.
“Governors and other political office holders were not elected and/or appointed to only go and share proceeds from crude oil and petroleum products sales monthly in Abuja.
“Anyone putting himself or herself out to serve does so on the assumption that he or she has an intellect above average which would be leveraged to provide good and responsive governance to the rest of the populace,” he said.
He maintained that in the 1960s when Nigeria did not have oil as the main source of its economy, the country’s fore bearers raised funds via efficient taxes, agricultural produce and other forms of internally generated revenue to provide development and pay living wages to the workers.
“So our current crop of leaders who put themselves up for election to high government positions must deliver by paying the working masses their due pay. This is not negotiable.
“As early as May 2015, we gave notice that the N18,000 national minimum wage was due for review, and that we would be submitting a new proposal once the incoming government has settled down.
“We have been patient and waited for the President Muhammadu Buhari government to appoint ministers and thus have the full compliment of officers to run the government.
“With the recent devaluation of the naira, and the attendant increase in inflation and cost of living, even without the last minimum wage Act reaching the mandatory five years when it is due for review, we would have been justified to request for review.
“Now the five years is here – we are at the end of 2015, and with the cost of living being so high – we will soon table our new minimum wage demand to the federal government.
“If the recent statement by the governors’ forum is intended to manoeuvre them away from addressing this imperative, then it is bound to fail as we are ready to do battle to raise the living standards of the Nigerian working people,” he submitted.

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