By Joan Nwagwu
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has accused the Federal Government of engaging in unnecessary delay in constituting a tripartite committee to negotiate the new minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, NLC President made the accusation at the 4th NLC National Gender Conference and Election of the Leadership of National Women Commission on Wednesday in Abuja.
The 4th Delegates Conference has as its theme “Consolidating the Gains of Gender Mainstreaming in the Trade Unions”.
“The current administration is dragging its feet in constituting a tripartite committee to negotiate a new minimum wage.
“Against the background of the harsh economic times and the impact on the working people, we cannot wait indefinitely for government to respond at its own time.
“Though, we have been told by the administration that the panel will be constituted, we enjoin the government to urgently sort out whatever is the constraint it is facing.
“Federal Government must act on the matter before we are forced to take actions that may be unpleasant.’’
He said that the labour had submitted a request for an upward review of the National Minimum Wage which was signed into law in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Wabba said that the present administration, in spite the fact that the minimum wage was due for renegotiation after 5 years, had yet to constitute the committee.
The NLC president said that it was no longer news that the country was in severe recession and prices of virtually all consumable and non-consumable items had increased.
“In the last 12 or more months, the inflationary trend in the economy has gone over the roof, and the mass of our people, the salaried and the teeming millions of the unemployed are facing very difficult times.
“Amidst these difficulties , we have contended with a number of state governments that have misplaced priorities and have regularly refused to pay workers in the state pay roll, their salaries as and when due.
“Similarly, pensions of retried public servants have gone unpaid for several months, and in some cases years .
“We have over the last 15 months fought these state governments to pay up these outstanding wages and pension liabilities they owe workers.
“We will continue to do this till all salaries and pensions across the country are fully paid up.’’
Wabba, however , said that the 2017 International Women Day with its theme; “Women in the Changing World of Work” seeks to link women’s work in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) .
He said that the SDGs had sought to place gender equality and empowerment of women and girls at the heart of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
“The congress is committed to working with the Nigerian government in the spirit of achieving the SDG goals of ending poverty, promoting inclusive and reducing inequality and achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
“As a trade union movement, we need to intensify our struggle for gender justice and gender equality and link it up to building our organisations.
“We have to advocate and ensure that our government enforces better gender policies, health care and increase access to services to women as well as making the workplace women-friendly.
“We must deliberately support women leaders to build their capacity to meet up with the challenges of unions and the complexity in the world of work.’’
Earlier, Mrs Lucky Offiong, Chairperson of NLC National Women Commission, said the objective of the conference was to promote gender mainstreaming in the trade unions.
Offiong said that the conference was also to assess the level of implementation of the NLC Gender Equity Policy in the affiliate unions, among others.
She, however, called for the safety of the girl child and women generally as it had become a major concern to all, especially working women due to circumstance of their working were forced to leave the care of their children to other persons.
“These children become victims of rape and all forms of abuses. I, therefore, call on all employers of labour to urgently set-up child-care facilities in work places.
“This will safe-guard these innocent and vulnerable children while their mothers are engaged in their legitimate employment, “she said.
Also, Mr John Odeh, Executive Secretary, Organisation of Trade Union of West Africa(OTUWA) commended women on the special occasion.
Odeh said that the association would work with women to ensure that the grounds they had covered were consolidated.