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).
Kaigama 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.”
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.”