By Isaac Anumihe
Federal Government yesterday raised Nigerian workers hope of a new minimum wage when it assured that it will facilitate the passage of national minimum wage.
In a message to workers during the 2017 May Day Rally with the theme, “Labour Relations in Economic Recession: An Appraisal”, President Muhammadu Buhari, promised he would hasten the proposal contained in the Technical Committee’s Report submitted to him on April 6, 2017. Buhari who was represented by Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Productivity said: “I am happy to inform you that the government will give expeditious consideration to the proposal contained in the Technical Committee’s Report which was submitted to on April 6, 2017. Government will take necessary steps to implement the final recommendation of the Main Government/Labour Committee as it relates to the setting up the new National Minimum Wage Committee and the needed palliatives. This is in order to reduce the discomfort currently being experienced by the Nigerian working class.
“I want to assure you that government will continue to do all at its disposal to better the lots of all Nigerians and more importantly to provide a commensurate welfare for all Nigerian workers, ”he said.
Buhari said that he was aware that the economic recession in the country has huge implications for the seamless conduct of industrial relations, noting that this arises from the fact that the economic recession by its nature was characterised by a substantial risk of the “vicious circles of low productivity”.
He acknowledged that the recession has brought about mass retrenchment of workers and closure of workplaces due to high cost of doing business, unregulated subcontracting and outsourcing with consequences on welfare of workers among others.
According to him, in the face of these inevitable challenges, the workers have shown maturity and understanding in spite of the situation in which the nation found itself.
“I strongly salute your great sense of patriotism and loyalty to the country, ”he said.
Buhari, however, called for effective deployment of labour relations, an amalgamated approach that would be used in creating a conducive work environment that would attract foreign investment for wealth creation.
He called on government, workers and employers to work together to put out the economy from recession.
“Therefore, I call on the organised labour to continue to partner with this administration by resorting to social dialogue as an indispensable tool for conflict resolution
“Today, we stand in solitary with workers all over the world to commemorate this historic Day which marked a turning point in the economies of the nations and the welfare of the working class,”he added.
He commended the organised labour for its support and encouragement to the administration’s fight against corruption which was the bane of sustainable economic development.
He added that his commitment to fight against corruption was total and irreversible. “We must fight corruption before it destroys us.
As a matter of fact, the workers should be in the forefront of activities in the realisation of the WhistleBlowing Policy of this administration,” he said.
But the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has maintained that workers’ patience was running out over the delay in negotiating the new minimum wage.
Earlier, Chairman, TUC, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chapter, Mr Ahmed Olayinka, had said during an awareness rally on the International Workers’ Day celebration in Abuja that the workers cannot wait indefinitely for government, adding that in view of the hardship being experienced by Nigerian workers as a result of economic recession, the government should fast-track the implementation of the proposed new minimum wage.
“We, in the labour union and the entire Nigerian workers are losing our temper. The government must do something fast because prices of things have skyrocketed in the market.
“The common man cannot afford the basic needs of life and workers now pay double of what they used to buy in the market’’ he said, adding that the labour union was in support of the anti corruption drive of President Muhammadu Buhari and would do anything to expose corrupt officials.
Olayinka said that the labour union had always been in support of good governance, adding that it was aware that corruption was fighting back and it would support the government to tame the tide.
“Corruption is fighting back and we are on the same page with the government, but the only thing we are asking for is a review of the minimum wage because N18, 000.00 can no longer take care of us.” he said