The stage appears set for a clash of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) with governors and lawmakers pushing the bill which seeks to remove the National Minimum Wage from the exclusive to the concurrent legislative list.
The NLC leadership yesterday threatened to mobilise Nigerians against governors and some National Assembly members.
NLC President Ayuba Wabba, who spoke with The Nation last night, accused some members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum of sponsoring such an anti-workers’ legislation.
The bill which scaled through the first reading before the House embarked on Easter recess, is set for second reading on the floor of the House where members will debate on it.
Wabba, who kicked against fresh moves to “strangulate workers”, who have been frustrated by the lingering socio-economic hardship, said labour would explore every legitimate legal means to protect workers. “We have done in the past and we are going to deplore it,” he said.
The Congress plans to mobilise its affiliates to campaign against all political office holders linked with anti-workers’ legislations and policies ahead of the 2018 and 2019 general elections.
Wabba said: “All over the world, minimum wage is on the exclusive list. We are talking about protecting the most vulnerable group, that is the principle and philosophy. It is an ILO core issue under decent work agenda. It is a core ILO issue that all countries are conformed to.
“So, first is that it is the level of ignorance because he thinks that it is only for the state. No. It is for the self-employed for those that are from the private sector to protect the most vulnerable people from being exploited from false labour and slavery. That is why minimum wage law is there.
“It is a core ILO convention and in many countries of the world, including capitalist economy. As capitalist as the United Stated (U.S.) is, they have a minimum wage law.
“So, we must first understand the concept. It is not the state government. It is all employers of labour generally, both private and public. So, for public sector, who fixes their own? That is why it is a tripartite issue. I think that there is a level of ignorance he has demonstrated in this without even knowing what minimum wage law is all about.
“First, we condemn it in its entirety. We are going to respond immediately and effectively. Two, let him also go back to the archives. This issue was introduced even by some cabals within the Governors’ Forum at the last constitution amendment and it was defeated.
“It went to a referendum and it was defeated. So, we should start from where we stopped and not to take us back to areas we have actually advanced on.”
Wabba said that millions of Nigerians who are self-employed and those working in the private sector will be subjected to undue exploitation if the national minimum wage is removed from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.
“Who will regulate the case of the self-employed; for instance now, you are self-employed, you are not working under either the state or the federal government where you can even negotiate.
“So, the implication is that once you remove that from the exclusive list, workers will be exploited. We are not even talking of the maximum, we are talking about the minimum.
“Assuming the alteration bill sells through in the National Assembly, what will organised labour, especially the leadership of the NLC, do? It will not said through because we will stop it at all cost. Nigerian workers will not accept this.
“The proponent of the bill, Ayeola Abayomi Abdulkadir (APC-Lagos), seeks to alter the Second Schedule, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by deleting item 34 from the exclusive legislative list and renumbering the existing item 35 as item 34 and subsequent items accordingly.”
Also yesterday, the President, United Labour Congress (ULC), Mr. Joe Ajaero, said moves to remove minimum wage from the exclusive to concurrent legislative list would be protested.
Speaking at the pre-2017 May Day seminar organised by ULC, in Lagos, Ajaero described the move is ill-motivated to deny workers their right to live well which is what some of the governors have been advocating but we will mobilise against them.
He said that if the planned delisting of wages from the exclusive legislative list succeeds, the country would no longer have a national minimum wage.
Ajaero said: “It means that each state of the federation will be empowered to legislate and arrive at what should be their respective minimum.’’
The current N18, 000 minimum wage became effective in 2011 and subject to a review every five years.
Labour has been agitating for a review since last year citing hyperinflation and the devaluation of the Naira.