Awka – The Nigeria Labour Congress said the minimum wage of N27, 000 and N30, 000 approved for state and federal workers was a fragmentation of the wage and therefore, unacceptable.
Chairman of the congress in Anambra, Mr Jerry Nnubia, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Awka on Tuesday that the minimum wage approved by the Council of State was against the principle of collective bargaining.
He said labour leadership expected the approval of N30, 000 recommended by the tripartite committee that handled the issue, adding that the council did not have the locus to change the content of agreement.
He said the Federal Government should not encourage state governors to cheat Nigerian workers who also go to the same markets as federal workers.
“What is announced as minimum wage is unacceptable; how can they approve different minimum wages for federal workers and state workers when they all go to the same market.
“In labour matters, there are institutions that are parties to negotiations and council of state is not one of them; let the minimum wage of N30, 000 be approved, there are states that are willing to pay more than that amount.
“State governors are not the owners of their states and the Federal Government should not encourage them to hold us to ransom.
“If they must have a different minimum wage for state workers, then they should create a separate market for them,” he said.
Nnubia said that the labour movement may be forced to apply the last tool of negotiation and shut down the country if the new differential minimum wage announced was not rescinded.
“May be they want to shut down the country; we will help them and workers should not be blamed for it.
“We have an emergency council meeting on Friday and after that the national labour movement will take a stand on the matter,” he said.
The new minimum wage as approved by the National Council of State on Tuesday was announced by Labour and Employment Minister, Dr Chris Ngige, at the end of the meeting in Abuja.
He had said the Council approved a new minimum wage of N27, 000 as benchmark and that Federal Government had agreed to N30, 000 to its workers.
Meanwhile, organised labour on Tuesday rejected the N27, 000 new National Minimum Wage recommended by the National Council of State, insisting on N30,000 proposed by the Tripartite Committee on the new salary.
Leaders of Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) declared their rejection of the position in Abuja while reacting to the council’s recommendation.
TUC President, Mr Bobboi Kaigama, in a statement said that N27, 000 was unacceptable as the Federal Government had already agreed to pay N30, 000.
According to him, the Council of State’s decision though advisory, is weighty and may give semblance of authority to the decision.
“This decision must not be allowed to stand because it will set a wrong precedence for the future, that is, after statutory bodies have done their jobs, Council of State will sit to review it.
“Let it be known that N30, 000 Minimum Wage is a product of negotiation, not legislation, not advice and not a decree.
“Minimum Wage issue, therefore, is on the move to the National Assembly. We expect the representatives of the people to do the needful during the public hearing,” he said.
On his part, ULC President, Mr Joe Ajearo, also declared N27, 000 approved by the Council of States was unacceptable, saying that the announcement was shocking.
Ajearo said the decision of the Council went against the grain of all known traditions and practices of industrial relations, especially as it concerns national minimum wage framework.
According to him, ULC rising from its just-concluded Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting in Lagos, on Tuesday, rejects in its entirety the proposed N27, 000.
“This is contrary to the N30, 000 agreed by the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee and which has since been submitted to the President.
“It is also important that we make it clear that the National Council of State does not have powers to approve, confirm, affirm or accept any figure as the new National Minimum Wage.
“What they have pretended to have done is therefore without any force of law, standards or other known practices of industrial relations the world over.
“It is a mockery of the essence and principle behind the setting of a National Minimum Wage to attempt to segregate it between federal workers and state workers.
“We want to state that workers are workers everywhere, whether at the federal level or at the state level.
“They all have the same challenges – go to the same market, same schools and much more, they suffer the same fate. You cannot, therefore, pay them differently,’’ he said.
The labour leader added that government’s attempt “at this dichotomy is an effort at segregation and apartheid in nature”.
He said it was an attempt to put a sword within the trade union movement and to further marginalisation of private sector workers in Nigeria, thereby seeking to weaken the trade union movement in the country.
“We urge the President to disregard the pronouncement of the National Council of State as it ridicules the statutes and principles governing the nation.
“The only honourable path he should tread is to transmit the N30, 000 as agreed by the Tripartite Committee and even the President on the day of submission of the Committee’s report.
“We will not accept the use of any cover of state to jettison the collective will of Nigerian workers and the trade union movement,” he said.
Ajearo also advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow himself to be seen as a president who did not keep his words.
“We hold him to that agreement and there is no other thing that will be acceptable to Nigerian workers except the N30, 000 arrived at through the tripartite process,’’ he said.