Fresh hope for new minimum wage emerges
Employers have expressed their readiness to pay the minimum wage whenever it becomes law.The national umbrella body of the employers stated this on the sideline of the on-going 107 International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Speaking with The Guardian, the Director General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, Olusegun Oshinowo, explained that employers agreed that the current minimum wage is inadequate.
He said: “Employers are believers in the rule of law and they have been involved in setting threshold of minimum wage in Nigeria. The fact that we are on the table for negotiation is indicative of the fact that we are ready for the outcome.“If at sectoral level, we have been faithful to the approach, then the country can count on us to be faithful to the outcome of the discussion on a new national minimum wage.”
While Oshinowo decried the hullaballoos currently greeting the timing for the takeoff of a new minimum wage is unnecessary, he said efforts should be geared towards negotiating a sustainable wage figure that workers would be happy with. The NECA chief observed that irrespective of when the negotiations are concluded, all the stakeholders must show commitment to the process that will fast track the negotiation for the benefit of Nigerian workers.
On his part, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, said if all the tripartite members are committed to doing what is right and working within the timeline that the committee has set the September takeoff date is achievable.
Wabba insisted that the September date was known from the very beginning of the assignment, explaining thus: “From the beginning we set a timeline on when to conclude negotiations and deliver a comprehensive report. Giving the commitment we have received from the National Assembly, I don’t think that the lawmakers will delay the bill once it gets to them. Both the NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) are committed to the August/September timeline. The one that was done in 2011 was actualised within one month.
So, if there is a will, the entire negotiation and passage into law can conveniently be done ahead of September.”He explained that both the NLC and TUC would consult its various organs to determine the next line of action as the negotiations progress.
Wabba dismissed the minimum wage negotiation becoming a political tool by the ruling party, saying, “the 2011 negotiation was done during the electioneering period. Once negotiation is due the process to embark on new negotiation will begin.”
The NLC helmsman explained that once the negotiations are concluded by the tripartite committee, the question can no longer be ability to pay, but desirability to pay by the private sector.
Meanwhile, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has explained that he was quoted out of context on the takeoff date.His words: “I was quoted out of context. The report of the committee is expected to be submitted in September. After that the recommendations would be taken to the government. The executive arm will take the recommendation to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and because it also concerns the state governments, the recommendations will also go to the National Economic Council.’’
These two bodies would now examine the recommendations and then forward it to the National Assembly for legislative process in order for it to become law and thereafter assented to by the president. What I said was that I do not see all these processes taking place before the end of September and that is why I said that September date for workers to receive minimum wage is not feasible. However, this is not to say that if everyone in the committee shows commitment, there is nothing to suggest that we cannot consummate all the processes before the end of the year.’’