The Secretary-General, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, (ASCSN), Comrade Alade Bashir, is a member of the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee, who attended the last meeting in the negotiation process, where the parties involved moved a motion and arrived at an agreement to put a new National Minimum Wage at N30,000. He speaks on what took place and how the figure was arrived at. Soji-Eze Fagbemi, presents the details:
You are one of the members of the National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee who attended your last meeting. Since that meeting however, the Minister of Labour and Labour Unions have come out with different positions as the outcome of that negotiations. What is the true position?
I must be very frank with you, we are surprised at the position being taken by The Minister of Labour and Employment. The committee actually reconvened on the 4th and 5th of September, 2018 , as advertised. On the first day, we did everything about the report as well as the legal draft in respect of the amendment that were brought in. What was remaining was the figure. The Minister for Budget and Planning came in to say that government position as far as minimum wage is concern is N20,700, but some of us said it was too low and we back it with reasons.
But eventually we agreed that the different figures be brought to the table. You remember that the NLC and TUC proposed N66,500, ULC N98, 000, while the Organised Private Sector proposed N24, 000, as well as other government agencies like NBA and NPC, who also suggested figures.
However, all these figures were put in a basket and we did some arithmetic to find the average, mode, and the median. So, in the final analysis, the average was N38,000 and it was on the strength of that figure that we started arguing. We said instead of taking that N38, 000, we came down from N66,500 to N42,000, and the Federal Government moved up from N20,700 to N24,000. But after much argument, the Organised Private Sector suggested N30,000.
At that point, we sensed that the Federal Government was not happy with the Private Sector for moving upward the figure. So for us, the Organised Labour not to lose friends, we accepted the figure after consultation with ourselves. Someone moved a motion accepting the N30,000 as minimum wage.
That motion was also seconded by someone from the Organised Private Sector. However, since it was a tripartite committee meeting, we expect that if someone is not happy, there will be a counter motion, but nothing as such, so N30,000 was recorded as the new minimum wage. After that we felt instead of calling us back, we decided to signed the report but I wouldn’t know if the labour minister signed or not and eventually the meeting was adjourned.
But before adjournment, the chairman told us that we would be called when we are to submit the report to Mr. President. Remember we have tidied up everything including the legal areas, so what is left is to input the figure. So, for Minister of Labour to say no figure was agreed upon shows they are playing politics and we are too much for that.
We are also giving them the next few days, if nothing happens, we would apply the next gear and also we want to tell them that we own this country together. We know how much each of these gubernatorial aspirants used to buy nomination forms, where do they get the money from? How much is N30,000 , it is not even up to the value of N18,000 in 2011 . So as far as I am concern, the issue of minimum wage has been rested, we are waiting for them to call us to come and submit report to Mr. President so as to go to the next stages because workers are waiting.
But what do you think informed the position of Minister position?
May be he is acting a script, may be they are afraid of the governors, I don’t know but we have said it times without number that the governors cannot take us for a ride and that in the history of Minimum wage negotiations. States have never submitted a single figure but different figures according to their respective state. We also know that their plans was to frustrate the process, but as we speak, even the current N18, 000 national minimum wage, some states are paying more than that so therefore,what they are trying to do will not fly.They are taking us for a ride but we are going to resist such a thing.
Did the meeting actually agreed on N30,000 figure. I mean was there really agreement by all?
It was arrived at during negotiations, after all the figures were put in a basket. You also know that everyone made a proposal, so one is not suppose to be rigid on the figure presented. I must be frank that government was not happy with the Organise Private Sector for moving upward from N25,000 to N30,000. That was unfortunate, but the truth was that private sector was even ready to pay something higher.
Recently, the Federal Executive Council approved the “no work no pay” policy and the government intended to start enforcing it. How will you react to this?
They are wasting their time. They have forgotten that it was the people that voted them into office. A time would come that we would chase them out. So, no bill can stop strike, because that is the only weapon workers have. So I am telling you that it will not work. You remember the palliative Committee they put in place after increment of petrol to N145 , as a member of that Committee I can tell you that non of the recommendations was implemented. They promised to release the sum of N30000 billion but nothing was release to that regard.
The 2019 elections is coming, but as workers, do you see this as a good opportunity to make a statement?
We have sensitized our members that any anti-workers candidate should be voted out. We have done that in Ekiti and Osun, even though Osun escaped by whisker, they were thought a bitter lesson. So, 2019 is not going to be APC or PDP but the candidates and it is only the workers friendly candidates that we are going to vote for.
The NHIS crisis is becoming very embarrassing and your union has been in in the forefront of the issue. Is this good for our system and institutions?
The Executive Secretary is a disaster. Rather than bringing the required reform to the organisation, he was busy fighting his perceived enemies. It is quite appalling. I don’t know that the business of governance can be reduced to such a ridiculous moment. As far as we are concern, there is a lot of fraudulent activities going on there. For instance, the man is busy carrying government properties to his house in the guise of setting up office in the house. We felt government should look into it because he is using his cronies to siphon money. He is not even respecting the so called council which was put in place by Mr President, but running the place as a one man show. He is transferring people indiscriminately, whether union officials or not, he does not respect the ILO convention 87 and 98 on the right to Organised and respecting collecting bargaining . The earlier they take him out of the place the better, unless the mandate of providing Medicare to the contributors who are workers would be eroded or collapse.
But the man was earlier suspended by the Minister of Health but was asked to resume by the President without investigating the allegations against him?
You know that when he was brought back the first time, it was only this union that was talking, unlike that of Abdulrashed Maina that everyone in the country rose up against him coming back.
Then, who is to blame for this?
The Federal Government, because they appointed him and they are in charge of the anti-corruption. So they can’t tell us they are not aware of what is happening there. In fact, we wrote to Mr. President to inform him of his activities, but nothing was done. When he went on the first suspension did you hear us making noise, the place was calm because the man they brought to act did fantastic job, he faced the job in which he was brought in to do, but this one even the budget of the place was padded. So that is the situation we found ourselves, we will continue to talk, if they like let them do the needful, if they like let them leave him there, but posterity would put us on the right side of history.
Could this be one of those reasons while many are accusing the President of nepotism and one sided in his fight against corruption?
Those making such accusations have their reasons, but what we are saying is that he should look at these people, they are not adding value. Instead of adding value they are reducing from what he has achieved over the years. So his actions and inactions is capable of many interpretations. That is why I said that those saying that, have their reasons but our own is that something bad is happening in NHIS and government needs to urgently turn their searchlights on that place and do the needful so that it does not send wrong signal out that possibly the man is doing the bidding of some power that be, just like the way he was brought back.
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