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Minimum Wage: We’re Ready For Buhari –NLC

General Muhammadu Buhari Is Being Welcomed To Office By A Deluge Of Wants Including NlC’s Demand For A New Minimum Wage For Which It Has Promised To Make Governance Difficult

Taiwo Hassan

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is already preparing for a showdown with the incoming government of General Muhammadu Buhari,as it insists that there will be no going back on a new minimum wage demand and immediate payment of workers’ salaries owed by some state governments. NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, speaking at a media briefing with journalists in Lagos, weekend, said the incoming government should be prepared to be engaged by the labour movement as it settles down to work. According to Wabba, it is time to review the N18,000 minimum wage agreed during late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration. The NLC president argued that current economic realities makes the N18,000 minimum wage unrealistic and unsustainable.According to him, it would be unrealistic for Nigerian workers to collect N18,000 as monthly salary after working in a whole month.

He adds that the Congress would engage the incoming government on the matter until the wishes of workers are granted. “We have a lot of things going on now. We have our social partners and as I said earlier, our economists are working, including many senior economists from the academia are working, for us to make a presentation on the new minimum wage that all of us will be proud of using empirical data for us to arrive at any conclusion. “In essence, the law makes a provision that every five years; the minimum wage should be reviewed and increased. Also, look at the economic challenges, the value of our currency the purchasing power of our workers. I think we have every reason to try to advance for a new minimum wage because at the time N18,000 was canvassed and negotiated, exchange rate was hovering around N150 but today, it is hovering over N200.

“We have a lot of reasons to justify our demand for a new minimum wage. But we don’t want to actually jump the gun and start mentioning figures until we are able to be through with what our committee of experts is doing to be able to present an exact figure that we think we can be able to fight for with government. But it is an issue on the table. It is an issue we are talking about and it is an issue that we will start”, Wabba added. During this year’s May Day celebration, the NLC hinted at N90,000 as minimum wage it would demand from government. It based its position on current economic realities which it said can no longer be supported by N18,000. On the issue of unpaid salaries, the NLC boss said the Congress will make “governance ungovernable” in the states that are entangled with unpaid salaries of workers, adding that “state governors received monies from the federal allocation during these periods and they have no reason not to pay workers for the work they had done”. He also berated governors for allegedly diverting funds meant for workers salaries to political campaigns and elections, promising that “they will not go unpunished”.

He said “workers must receive their unpaid salaries and arrears”. “On the unpaid salary of workers, two issues come to play here. It is either you fight for your right or you stand to defend what is yours. The failure to pay salaries by any governor is not applicable to any workers’ fault. The worker is liable to his wages. The law said after 30 working days you will be paid for the work that is already done. So those are the context in the law and therefore it is not about their convenience or the convenience of our workers here, it is about making a legitimate demand and this demand is also the demand that is very legitimate. “What I mean in the essence is that, if the workers have not fought for their right before now, we must now wake up and demand that their wages must be paid.

The issue is not about shortage of fund; I hope you are aware of that. First, if it is about shortage of fund, no state will refuse paying salary for period of six months; in fact, you can join two months to pay one month. “But for six months, you are aware, some of these states’ governors have deliberately refused to pay workers and have diverted these funds to campaigns and political process. This is the fact and therefore if the new government would be coming to take over from them, and you insist on your right, I am sure that the new government will ask questions. So, it is in our own interest to start the process and make the place ungovernable for the person leaving the seat, we insist he must find money to pay us because we have worked under you. So, the money is there”, Wabba said.

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