•Meet on new minimum wage next week
By Bimbola Oyesola
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said, yesterdaym that the Federal Government has only paid N20 billion, out of the N500 billion budgetted as fuel price increase palliative for workers.
Also, organised labour is expected to meet next week on its proposed N56, 000 new minimum wage.
Last year, government promised the palliative after it agreed increase in the pump price of petrol, from N87 to N145 per litre.
Speaking recently on the state of the nation, NLC Deputy President, Peters Adeyemi reiterated the federal government has only released N20 billion for the palliative.
“Then, we kicked against the increase, but, some of our colleagues fell for government’s proposal of N500 billion social intervention fund, which they promised would come from the difference on the increase.
But, so far, only N20 billion has been released, no palliative”, he said.
Adeyemi said the palliative was expected to come from the difference between what NNPC was selling compared to other filling stations.
“Then NNPC sold a litre at N140, while others sold at N145… The difference was supposed to have used for the palliative…”
NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said government has used the palliative as “a ploy to distract Nigerians.
“We were not part of that discussion, but, since then, those representing government have not been attending the meeting under the guise that government has no money to give out for the palliatives, as promised”, he said.
One of the labour leaders who was in the meeting said the N500 billion was expected to come from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), but the government agency has failed due to foreign exchange crisis.
Labour is also seething that government has not set up a tripartite committee discuss the proposed new minimum wage.
However, the two labour centres, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have vowed to team up to mount pressure on Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige from next week, to get discussions on the new minimum wage underway.
The TUC is expected to hold its first National Administrative Council (NAC) meeting on January 10, while the NLC is equally proposing meetings of its highest organs any time next week.
TUC President, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, in an interview with Daily Sun, yesterday affirmed that the two labour centres will set machinery in motion immediately they resume from the public holiday.
“Immediately I get back to the office, I am going to meet my colleagues in the NLC and start early in the year to mount pressure on the minister. Wesubmitted the proposal since last year and we have discovered that, if you don’t push, governemt will not move. For now the new minimum wage is the primary thing and we are not going to let government rest until the committee is put in place.”
Kaigama said organised labour is ready to ensure that employers, both in the private and public sector, come to the negotiating table and pay the new wage, irrespective of the present recession in the economy.
“It is not an excuse, it is a matter of planning. Let them put the law in place, then, they can start looking for the money”, he said.
Wabba equally noted that the fact that the new wage was not captured in the 2017 budget submitted to the National Assembly would not affect the discussion on the new wage.
According to him, “when we have all agreed on the new wage and it has passed through the National Assembly, the executive can always submit a proposal for a supplementary budget. What is important for now is that Nigerian workers must get a new wage.”
Wabba had earlier lamented that the purchasing power of Nigerian workers has so depreciated that it is pure miracle that individuals on the existing minimum wage of N18000 are able to make ends meet in 30 days.
“At the beginning of 2016, with the Naira at N197 to $1, the minimum wage was equivalent of $91.3. At N495 to $1 this has in twelve month depreciated to $36.3. The May 2016 huge increase in price of fuel from N86 a litre to N145 a litre, and the attendant inflationary pressures, should have trigged an automatic increase in the minimum wage”, he said.
The Labour leader said with the erosion in the living standard of workers occasioned by the free fall of Naira, and the rising cost of living, the Congress will insist on the new wage and ensure that Nigerian workers are not made the sacrificial lamb of the recession.
Meanwhile the new labour centre, the United Labour Congres (ULC) has promised to work with the federal Government for an upward review of the national minimum wage to N96,000.
The ULC President, Joe Ajaero in his new year message yesterday said, “We shall seek greater coverage of the minimum wage to include all Nigerian workers whether working in the formal or informal sectors. In this light, we shall work towards designing a wage floor that would be automatically self-adjusting just like it is done in other advanced nations of the world bearing in mind that in the US, just yesterday, the minimum wage automatically went upwards from U$8:00 per hour to U$11:00 per hour. This is a national increase of about 37.5% in a nation with declining inflation and low cost of living.”
Just as a confirmation that the committee set up during the fuel crisis has not been effective, Ajaero called on the federal Government to make it more effective and empower it to conclude its work quickly.