By Chinyere Bassey
Organised Labour is to shift its minimum wage struggle to the National Assembly, to lobby the lawmakers to approve N30,000 for workers, a top unionist announced on Wednesday.
Mr Bobboi Kaigama, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), made the announcement in an interview with the labour correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
He was reacting to the approval made by the National Council of State, which on Jan. 22, approved N30, 000 as minimum wage for federal workers and 27,000 for states.
Government has been locked in negotiations with organised labour since 2016 over a long overdue minimum wage for public sector workers.
“If President Muhammadu Buhari takes the N27, 000 agreed by the National Council of State to the lawmakers, organised labour will provide necessary documents and agreements reached by the tripartite committee to lobby for N30, 000,’’ Kaigama said.
Labour had swiftly rejected the N27, 000 minimum wage, arguing that the council, made up of former heads of state and key government functionaries lacked jurisdiction on the issue.
Public sector workers in Nigeria currently earn some of the lowest wages in the world.
But public office holders, including members of the country’s bicameral legislature earn some of the fattest pay checks in the world, according to analysts.
A tripartite committee set up by the government on minimum wage sat for one year and recommended N30, 000 but the sum was rejected by many state governors, who said that the sum was too much.
Kaigama told NAN that the decision of the council of state would not be allowed to stand because it would set a wrong precedent for the future.
“After statutory bodies have done their jobs, council of state will now sit to review it. N30, 000 minimum wage is a product of negotiation, not legislation, not advice and not a decree,’’ he stated.
Similarly, the President of the United Labour Congress, Mr Joe Ajaero, described the decision by the council of state on the issue as illegal.
“If the Federal Government approved the payment of N27,000 to workers, it will be a wage award and not a national minimum wage because it negates the agreement reached by the National Tripartite Committee.’’
He said that this would be the first time the council of state would be playing such a role as recommending a discriminatory minimum wage for the country.
Also speaking, the Head of the International Relations Unit of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr Uche Ekwe, condemned the council’s decision on the matter.
According to Ekwe, it will be needless for any further meeting either by the council of state or technical committee after the tripartite committee has concluded and reached an agreement.
He said that workers in states, local councils and especially those in the private sector deserved to be paid N30, 000 as minimum wage.
Workers in Nigeria currently receive N18, 000 as minimum wage.
The figure came into effect in 2011 when former President Goodluck Jonathan signed it into law, raising the wage from the previous N7, 500.
Read also: Minumum wage: Nut rejects N27, 000, insists on N30,000 for all workers