The Nigeria Labour Congress and pensioners union have advised President Muhammadu Buhari to beware of members of Nigeria Governors’ Forum whom they described as anti-workers.
They alleged that such governors were working to frustrate the NLC agreement with the Federal Government on the payment of N30,000 as the new minimum wage.
The governors had, after the NGF meeting on Wednesday, said states would have to downsize their workforce to be able pay the amount.
But reacting to the NGF’s statement, the NLC accused some of the governors of deliberately pauperising civil servants in their states, alleging that 21 state governors had earlier sent their memoranda with figures that showed that they could pay the new minimum wage.
In a statement signed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the union said the NGF had no constitutional right to speak on behalf of every state in Nigeria. It accused the forum Chairman, Abdulaziz Yari, who is also the Governor of Zamfara State, of championing a threat against the Nigerian workers.
We will vote out anti-workers govs – Congress
The statement added that labour union members would ensure that anti-workers governors were voted out in 2019.
The statement read, “The attention of the NLC, the organised labour, the working class, pensioners and their families has been drawn to a statement credited to the Chairman of the NGF, Yari, threatening to sack workers on the account of the new national minimum wage of N30,000.
The 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) recognises individual states in the collective bargaining process, not NGF. The states, like the other social partners, have already defended their positions during negotiations at the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Negotiation Committee vis-à-vis counter proposals.
“Yari should desist from using the platform of the NGF to seek political relevance. His tactics of blackmail against workers are already time worn and the stench is already offensive. We shall continue to consolidate our efforts to strengthen already existing platforms and structures to give teeth to our resolve to vote out anti-labour governors and politicians in the forthcoming 2019 general election.”
It added, “Organised labour and Nigerian workers call on President Buhari to be wary of some people, especially in the NGF because they are wont, for selfish and personal reasons, to present him (Buhari) as an anti-worker President and by extension orchestrate anti-Buhari sentiments in the populace.”
NLC claimed that some state governments even proposed higher wage during the negotiation for the minimum wage.
“It would interest Nigerians to know that the new national minimum wage of N30,000 was a product of intense and robust negotiations at the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Negotiation Committee that lasted for one year between November 2017 and November 2018. State governments were represented by six states, one state from each of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. A letter was sent by the tripartite committee to every state to send in their memorandum as their input to the wage negotiations. It is on record that 21 states responded by sending memoranda with figures.
“Subsequently, public hearings were conducted in each of the geopolitical zones. The state governments were all represented at the zonal hearings and made their input. The demand of organised labour was N66,500. From the memoranda submitted to the NMWTNC by state governments, there were proposals by some states to even pay higher than the negotiated national minimum wage of N30,000.
“This agreement took on board prevailing economic indices and factors, especially as outlined in Convention 131 and Recommendation 95 of the International Labour Organisation Convention on Criteria and Procedure for Collective Bargaining, especially towards arriving at a National Minimum Wage for any country,” NLC stated.
It added, “The statement of Mr Yari purportedly for the NGF, one year after the inauguration of the NMWTC, is certainly an afterthought and has no place in the collective bargaining process. We understand that Mr Yari Abdulaziz’s position is at the instance of a few anti-worker governors. We are not in any doubt that many worker-friendly governors are ready to pay even higher than the negotiated N30,000 minimum wage.”
The NLC said Yari’s position on the issue would not intimidate workers, while challenging governors over their personal earnings.
“We propose that since a few political office holders are bent on enslaving Nigerian workers with peanuts mislabelled as salaries, we urge such elected public officials to subject their humungous salaries and allowances, reputed to be among the highest in the world, pro rata with the minimum wage they want to force down the throats of Nigerian workers. We, therefore, urge each state governor to go to their respective states and inform workers and their families their individual positions on the new national minimum wage of N30,000,” noted NLC.
NLC state chapters attack governors
Also, state chapters of the NLC rejected the governors’ position that only Lagos State could pay the N30,000 minimum wage.
The NLC leaders in states including Ogun, Nasarawa, Taraba, Oyo, Cross River and Imo, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, berated the governors, saying they would not accept anything less than N30,000.
In Oyo State, the Chairman of NLC, Waheed Olojede, said the statement credited to the NGF had nothing to do with Nigerian workers.
Olojede described the governors’ forum as a mere social club because its existence was alien to the constitution of Nigeria. He said those who could not pay the N30, 000 minimum wage should resign and allow capable people to run their states.
Olajide said, “The issue of the national minimum wage goes beyond the level of Nigeria Governors’ Forum. To us in the labour movement today, the NGF is unknown to the law of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is just a social club. I regard them as a social club.”
The labour leader opposed any plan to deregulate the issue of the national minimum wage, saying governors collected uniform salaries.
“Today, the governor in Kaduna State is taking the same salary with the governor in Kano State. The governor of Kano State is taking the same salary with the governor in Bayelsa.
“If that can be centrally controlled by the Federal Government, there is no reason why that should not be applicable to all workers irrespective of their job locations in Nigeria, either at the state or local government level,” he argued.
Olajide recalled that government had increased the price of petroleum products and electricity tariffs, adding that the government was no longer providing free education and health care.
No going back on N30,000 – Taraba NLC
The Taraba State Chairman of the NLC, Peter Gambo, also said workers in the state would not take anything less than N30,000 as the new minimum wage.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, the state NLC Chairman argued that the NGF had a representative in the tripartite committee which agreed on the N30, 000 minimum wage and should be honourable to stick to the agreement.
He asked, “Are they telling us that they didn’t trust their representative in the tripartite committee? We are not going to take anything less than N30, 000 as was agreed upon in the tripartite committee.
“There is no need to renegotiate, but if the governors don’t want our position, we will go back to the N65, 000 proposal we earlier demanded.
Reduce cost of governance, workers tell Ogun govt
In Ogun State, the NLC and Trade Union Congress said the state government could “conveniently afford” the new minimum wage of N30,000 for the workers if it cut down its expenses and reduced cost of governance .
The NLC and TUC vowed that there was no going back on the N30,000 minimum wage, adding that they would not entertain any further negotiation on the issue, except the government would review N30,000 upward.
The state Chairmen of NLC and TUC, Akeem Ambali and Olubunmi Fajobi, respectively, described the attitude of the governors over the N30,000 minimum wage as belated.
Ambali stated, “The only negotiation we would hold with Ogun State Government on the issue of the minimum wage is for the increase from N30,000.”
Also, the TUC chairman said, “No more negotiation. Everything about negotiation has been concluded. The governors have representatives at the tripartite committee. What they are doing is belated. They are telling Nigerians they cannot be trusted with power.”
On affordability of the minimum wage in Ogun State, the NLC chairman said, “Conveniently, Ogun State can afford to pay N30,000. It is second richest state in the area of IGR and sundry mineral resources.
The TUC Chairman said, “It is not a question of affordability. The state can pay, even higher than N30,000.
Both NLC and TUC condemned the condition given by the governors to pay the new minimum wage, describing the threat as empty and a wrong approach to the issue.
The labour leaders said, “Government’s responsibility is to provide jobs. That threat is unnecessary. The government’s threat to lay off workers because of the new minimum wage is bad. I see the threat as more of empty”.
We won’t negotiate with state government – Nasarawa workers
The Nasarawa State Chairman of the NLC, Mr Abdullahi Adeka, said workers in the state would not negotiate with the state government over the N30,000 minimum wage. He insisted that it was a constitutional right of workers and no governor could deny them that.
Adeka expressed optimism that the state Governor, Umaru Al-Makura, would implement the new minimum wage.
N30,000 minimum wage or nothing, C’River NLC insists
IN Cross River State, the Chairman of the NLC, Mr Clarkson Otu, insisted that the organised labour would not open any negotiation with the state government on the N30, 000 minimum wage.
Otu, who expressed optimism that the state government was capable of paying the minimum wage, advised elected office holders to stop wastage of public funds.
His position came just as the Special Adviser to the state Governor on Labour, Mr Effiong Umoh, said although Governor Ben Ayade would be willing to pay the N30,000 minimum wage, there would still have to be negotiation as soon as the documentation at the national level was concluded.
But in his argument, Otu said anything short of the N30,000 minimum wage would be resisted.
N30,000 non-negotiable – Imo NLC
Also, the Imo State chapter of the NLC said it was not going back on its demand for a N30,000 minimum wage.
The NLC chairman described the governors’ call for less than N30,000 minimum wage as heartless and very insensitive.
He said the state chapter of the NLC would not accept anything less than N30,000 as minimum wage.
Sokoto forecloses further negotiation
Sokoto State NLC Chairman, Aminu Ahmed, has foreclosed any further negotiation on minimum wage.
“There is no need for any form of negotiation, the tripartite committee duly constituted and saddled with the responsibility to come up with a minimum wage, met and came out with a figure, then, why should we go round this circle again, he asked.
Aminu also denounced the option of laying off workers to implement the N30,000 minimum wage.
In Enugu State, the Chairman of the TUC, Mr Chukwuma Chukwuma, said after the approval of the minimum wage by the National Assembly, every state would be paying it. He called for a review of the cost of governance in the state.
Similarly, the Chairman of Katsina State chapter of the NLC, Tanimo Saulawa, said he was optimistic that the state government would pay the N30,000 minimum wage.
He hinged his optimism on the existing cordial relationship between the state government and labour.
Osun can pay N30,000 minimum wage – JNC
Contacted for his reaction, the Chairman, Osun Joint Negotiation Council, Chief Bayo Adejumo, said negotiations for minimum wage had not been decentralised, adding that only the national labour movement was allowed to handle it.