PRESIDENT of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and member of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, has warned the Federal Government not to push Nigerian workers to the wall over the issue of new minimum wage, saying that any further delay will amount to trying workers’ patience.
Wabba, who spoke to journalists as the 106th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC), came to a close in Geneva, Switzerland, said the government will be pushing workers to the wall, if it engages in unnecessary delay, warning that there is a limit to patient and understanding.
According to him, there is genuine fear being expressed by the workers that the government might foot drag and delay the new minimum wage till next year, but he insisted that there must be a timeline to conclude the process soonest.
“There was also this insinuation (delay in the process), but I think when the die is cast, all of us will then know that certainly the workers are pushed to the wall. There is a limit to patient and understanding. Certainly, a hungry person, however you explain to him, there is no basis how he will understand,” he said.
Wabba, who has just been elected into the Governing Board of the ILO added, “It is very clear that N18,000 in the context of the current economic reality cannot take you for a week. I assure you that we on this side will play our role very importantly so that we take into consideration some of the issues that our members have brought to our attention.
“But I think the important thing is that the process must start and we must see to the fact that this process must have a timeline where we can end it. We shouldn’t allow those workers to die first before the fruit of their Labour will manifest.”
He said the issue is long overdue and assured workers that the congress has got the commitment of the National Assembly to address the issue.
The NLC president said: “For us in organised labour, certainty, it is an issue that we think that is long overdue and we have gotten commitment from all level, including from the National Assembly that they are ready to make sure that this issue is addressed once and for all.
“You can even see that in the last one month, an action that has been taken, the leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila proposed a bill to the effect that the issue of the review of minimum wage should even be a provision of the law. Because you are aware that in 2011, what we had was a tripartite agreement that after five years, the minimum wage will be reviewed. But they have even gone one step further by saying that it should not only end up in the tripartite agreement, it should be a product of law.
“I think that all of them in the National Assembly which we have interfaced with, they are ready to do the needful, including if there is supplementary budget today, that they are ready to give it accelerated hearing. And therefore, those fears are real, but we are working assiduously from our perspective to ensure that those issues are addressed.
“It is an issue that you need to bring the governors, employers, government and Organised Labour. You know that businesses are for profits and anything that will take a dime out of their profits, they are ready to do everything possible to delay it. We are mindful of that. It’s not the first time we are treading this path, you remember in 2010, it was also the same process.”
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