Posted by News Express | 17 December 2018 | 1,534 times
There is palpable apprehension among workers over the inclusion or otherwise of the N30,000 new minimum wage in the 2019 budget proposal to be presented to the National Assembly on Wednesday by President Muhammadu Buhari.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that the tripartite committee negotiating the new minimum wage had recommended N30,000 as the new minimum wage and presented same to the president.
However, there has been a sharp disagreement between Organised Labour and state governors after the latter, under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said they cannot afford to pay the proposed new wage to their workers.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had also on Friday expressed concern at the poor state of the economy, telling governors to tighten their belts in preparation of harder times ahead.
Consequently, with the budget presentation coming next week, there are feelers that the state governors are anxious because if the president includes the new minimum wage in the budget, it will imply that he has given his blessing to the payment of N30,000 as minimum wage.
But although the president is yet to send an executive Bill on the new minimum wage to the National Assembly, the Labour unions have insisted that the new salary scheme should be included in the budget for 2019.
Besides, Labour has warned that any reduction in the N30,000 national minimum wage agreed to by the Tripartite Committee as contained in the committee’s report to the president or any further delay in its passage will lead to devastating consequences.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday in a telephone conversation in Lagos, the president of United Labour Congress (ULC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, said that naturally, the union expects that the formulators of the budget would be sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people, especially Nigerian workers.
“We expect the budget to be crafted bearing in mind the fact that Nigerian workers working within the tripartite process have agreed on N30,000 as a new minimum wage but which is awaiting submission to the NASS for passage into Law.
“We therefore expect this budget to capture the increased expense that must accrue as a result.”
According to Ajaero, the formulators of the 2019 budget must understand the urgent need to reflate the economy by increasing the purchasing power of the masses, especially the workers.
“This is critical if the increasing inventories in the various warehouses of manufacturers and other businesses can be reduced so as to stimulate economic growth and thus create more employment in the economy,” he said.
The ULC president explained that the most critical way to do this is to capture in this budget transfers to workers in the form of a reviewed minimum wage as agreed by the Tripartite Committee.
“We expect this budget to be proactive in this direction if it is serious about achieving its objective of growing the economy.
“However, because of the unfortunate dynamics of our nation, we have come to trust less on the nation’s annual budget considering the years of disappointment and variance in its implementation process. 2019 budget will not be any different when we also remember that the general elections are before us. Will politics allow the processes to operate smoothly and would it be passed even before May 29?” he asked.
Ajaero noted that the contents of the 2019 budget as it concerns wage bills will show clearly the government’s position as it concerns the new national minimum wage.
“It will also signal to Nigerian workers the direction they will vote in the next coming elections. We cannot vote for a government that does not have our interests at heart and is not prepared to drive us out of poverty and peripheral existence,” he said.
Ajaero further stated that the union was also watching the budget proposals across the states and warned that any government that does not capture the new minimum will be an enemy of Nigerian workers and would be voted out by Nigerian workers and their families during the forthcoming election no matter the party they may belong.
“Nigerian workers are already discussing across the various divides on the modalities for engaging our adversaries in the corridors of power. We shall actively work for the actualisation of better and increased income, both nominal and real, for Nigerian workers and any government at any level that stands against this will not be viewed with kindness by Nigerian workers. 2019 budget is a test case,” he added.
Concurring with Ajaero, the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, told LEADERSHIP Sunday in an interview that Nigerian workers expect the federal government to give priority to minimum wage as it prepares the 2019 budget.
He said, “Nigerian workers should not suffer the consequences of what they are not responsible for. You will recall when the economy is doing well, nobody cares about the workers. When the economy is not doing well, workers are at the receiving end. In most cases they are not paid. Our expectation is that since there is a commitment, the minimum wage should be given priority.
On the possibility that the governors will reject the new wage, he said, “Our expectation is that they know the reality; they must agree to pay the minimum wage. It’s not about resources; it is about the will to pay. In the midst of recession, Edo State governor increased the minimum wage from N18, 000 to N25,000.”
•Sourced from Leadership report
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