A new national minimum wage for workers will to be announced by the Federal Government before the end of September, Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige has said.
The minister spoke just as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Ayuba Wabba warned against attempt by individuals and group to frustrate the ongoing negotiation for a new national minimum wage.
Such action, Wabba said, would not augur well for industrial harmony.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the NLC’s 40th anniversary celebration in Abuja, Ngige said while the new national minimum wage negotiation may be concluded before the third quarter, the committee put in place by the President has set a timeline of the third quarter to conclude its work and make available to Nigerians a new minimum wage.
Ngige said in line with the ILO Conventions 144 on tripartite consultation, the government would put in place the Nigeria Labour Advisory Council before the end of the second quarters.
Hailing the NLC for its successes over the years, the minister expressed concern over the seeming crisis within the labour family occasioned by the outcome of the last congress elections.
He asked the union’s veterans to reawaken the peace process they put in place earlier to unite the labour movement.
Ngige, however, frowned at what he described as misnomer, the practice within the trade union movement to dictate to employers how to manage their business or who to appoint into positions, adding that union leaders have no right to do so.
The minister stressed that irrespective of the NLC’s trials, which included dissolution during the military era in Nigeria and the appointment of a sole administrator at one time to manage its affairs, the congress has recorded tremendous successes in championing the cause of its members to achieve decent workplace and to attain the social protection floor in the nation’s socio-economic institutions.
He said: “Over the years, the NLC has shown its commitment to advance the welfare and protection of workers in line with principles put in place by the founders of ILO. It is particularly interesting to observe the quests by the NLC to ensure the whole essence of the freedom of association, the protection of the right to organise and to bargain collectively is practically realised.
“I must use this opportunity to implore the NLC to be mindful of trade disputes of interest.”
Ngige urged the NLC to “always bear in mind that social dialogue remains the critical tool in pursuing disputes of interest in order to fully realise the intent of declaring the dispute in the first instance”.
“Also, over the years, it is equally important to note the efforts of the Federal Government to ensure a sound industrial relations system by maintaining a good employment relationship with Labour. In this regard, the government has established a viable legal framework for Labour administration.
“By the second quarter of this year, the Nigeria Labour Advisory Council will be revived in consonance with the provisions of the ILO Convention 144 on tripartite consultation. These and more are efforts made and being made by the government to guarantee a good employment relationship and fair Labour practices for its workers.
“In furtherance to the determination by the Federal Government to attain decent works agenda, which involves opportunities for work that are productive and deliver a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, there have been overtime, three minimum wage reviews and currently, the tripartite committee on national minimum wage is set to review the current minimum wage. Memoranda are being received from relevant bodies and persons to enable the determination of a new minimum wage for the nation.
“It is pertinent to point out a misnomer that exists among the trade unions in their pursuit of their relative happiness in terms of industrial relations. Often, the workers through their respective trade unions, do over step by dictating to the employers who to appoint or otherwise. This is not right,” the minister said.
Wabba said the alarming rate of unemployment in the country was a misnomer, adding that the welfare of workers was very important, which gave rise to what he described as legitimate demand for a review in workers’ salaries.
The NLC president said those who slow down the process of review of the minimum wage should know that it will not augur well for them to deny workers their legitimate right as the current minimum wage cannot take care of their needs.
He explained that the anniversary was organised to acknowledge the strategic contribution of the working people and their allies in the struggle for a better society and improved conditions of service for workers and pensioners.
He drew attention to the alarming state of insecurity in the country, adding that the number of Nigerians who are losing their lives in attacks and counter attacks across the country portrayed a nation at war. Government need to step up to ensure adequate security.