By Bimbola Oyesola
Organised Labour has resolved to embark on a nationwide protest over plan to move the national minimum wage from the Exclusive to the Concurrent Legislative List.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a communique released at the end of its emergency virtual National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on March 2 warned that the protest may snowball into a national strike should the legislators fail to step down the bill.
This is even as it has declared to picket petrol stations found hoarding fuel, thereby creating artificial scarcity.
The communique jointly signed by the president of the congress, Ayuba Wabba and the acting General Secretary, Ismail Bello resolved that there will be a national protest action commencing from March 10 in the Federal Capital Territory and especially to the National Assembly.
“The protest is to make a strong statement that Nigerian workers would not lie low and watch hard fought rights which are of global standards bastardised by opportunistic and narrow thinking politicians,” the communique read.
The national protest action, according to the NLC NEC, will be concurrently held in all the 36 states of the federation and to the different Houses of Assembly.
It added that NEC has “decided that should the need arise, it has empowered the National Administrative Council of the NLC to declare and enforce a national strike action especially if the legislators continue on the ruinous path of moving the National Minimum Wage from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List.”
The Congress said at the meeting, it considered three major issues- move by a section of Nigeria’s political class to move the national minimum wage from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List; the ploy to establish state judiciary councils through constitution amendment and the prevailing hoarding of the Premium Motor Spirit also known of petrol by marketers in major cities.
The NLC said effort to decentralise the determination and application of minimum wage is selfish as the remunerations of all political office holders from Councillor to members of Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly and even governors are centrally and uniformly determined by Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Labour noted that a national minimum wage does not preclude the states from fixing their own minimums, except that they should not be lower than the national minimum which is the benchmark.
The NEC also reiterated the point that the national minimum wage is a product of negotiations between labour, the organised private sector and government (represented by state governments, federal government and relevant departments, agencies and parastatals), and paying it is not a favour to workers, adding that before agreeing on the national minimum wage, a number of issues were taken into consideration during negotiations with data provided by appropriate government agencies.
The labour leaders insisted that it could lead to amongst others, the exclusion of the private sector (both organised and unorganised) from the concept, rationale and logic of a national minimum wage, stressing that it is in the informal sector that horrendously unfair labour practices take place, introduction of politics into wage determination, negation of the principle of collective bargaining with an inevitable destination, a multiplicity of minimum wages that will create a segmentation of the Labour market, which could weaken national economic growth and cohesion.
It called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow those it called fifth columnists masquerading as politicians to derail his government by railroading the legislature into removing the national minimum wage from the exclusive to the concurrent list, a move it said that the global workers solidarity regards as anathema.
On the current hoarding of petrol and the attendant scarcity, the NLC called on relevant regulatory agencies of government to rise up to the protection of the interests of the majority of Nigerians from the exploitative hands of market forces bent on making maximal profits from the sufferings of fellow citizens.
It said the current trend of petroleum products hoarding and the resultant artificial scarcity impose great hardship and suffering on the already traumatised workforce and people who are being punished and further impoverished in order to satisfy the greed of a few marketers of refined petroleum products.
“Should the current artificial scarcity persist, the various leadership structures of the NLC should picket petrol stations found to be inflicting pains on Nigerians,” it stated.
The NLC NEC resolved that all the resolutions and decisions adopted at the emergency meeting should be pursued in collaboration with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the overall interest of all Nigerian workers.
This came as oil workers under the umbrella of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior staff association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have threatened to shut down oil installations nationwide if Federal Government failed to take action over anti-labour practices by an oil and gas firm, Brittania-U.
The union which issued the threat yesterday when it picketed Brittania-U at its corporate head office in Lagos as early as 6 a.m, said that if by Friday the firm refused to meet its demands, it would mobilise all companies and affiliates in the sector to shut down all oil and gas installations nationwide.
Acting Chairman, PENGASSAN, Lagos Zone, Eyam Abeng, alleged that the Brittania-U, an indigenous company has exhibited the most notorious anti-labour laws in the oil and gas industry, with an unsafe workplace.
He stated that the firm frustrate and terminate jobs of Nigerian workers, who desire to anticipate with labour, since it was one of their fundamental human rights and also part of the Labour Act to belong to a union.
The acting chairman said the union has been on the firm since 2017 to resolve issues amicably and had initially given the firm 14-days ultimatum with additional seven days to address its anti-labour practices but to no avail.
Among anti-labour practices by the firm, Abeng alleged flouting of Section 40 of Nigeria’s constitution on freedom of association, lack of respect for collective bargaining agreement (CBA), disobedience of International Labour Organisation (ILO) No. 87 on the right of workers to establish or join a trade union, unjustifiable sack of employees and non payment of statutory allowances among others.
The National Treasurer of PENGASSAN, Victor Ononokpono, who expressed dismay that the picketing was for an indigenous company, maintained that the union would not relent until its demands are met.
Equally, the National Public relations Officer of PENGASSAN, Anietie Udoh added, “We have waited for years, families, who are dependent on the workers are suffering, they are being exposed to safety hazard. If we say we should hold on due to scarcity in the country, do you know how many families are being affected? This should move beyond what we see. How do we have petroleum product abundant in this country, yet we suffer so much for it? It is an aberration.”