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MINIMUM WAGE: LABOUR ISSUES 6-DAY ULTIMATUM

By NBF News
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As the Executive and National Assembly engaged in buck passing over who is responsible for the delay in the signing into law the new National Minimum Wage Bill, Labour yesterday issued a six-day ultimatum to the Federal Government within which to sign the bill or else it would mobilise against the conduct of the election.

The delegates to the ninth Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Conference held between last March 1 and 3 in Abuja had taken a resolution of 'No Minimum Wage, No Election' and mandated the necessary organs of the Congress to give vent to the decision.

Meanwhile, the Congress rose from its National Administrative Council meeting yesterday calling for the immediate signing of the wage bill and commence implementation, failing which it would commence moves to mobilise the workers against the general elections.

Congress President, Abdulwahed Omar who briefed newsmen on the outcome of the meeting explained that the NLC had given President Jonathan up till Monday, March 28, to assent to the bill or face workers' final wrath and the disruption of the April polls.

According to him, the Delegate Conference had given the NAC and the National Executive Council (NEC) a clear directive on the new minimum wage, which must be adhered to and carried out to ensure that all issues relating to the new wage were settled before April elections.

He said: 'Congress-in-session noted that the struggle for a new national minimum wage, which started since 2008 has dragged on for so long and therefore condemned the delay in its implementation long after the end of tripartite negotiations. Congress-in-session observed that this delay is deliberate and orchestrated by some governors of some states of the federation.

'Congress-in-session resolved and called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, ensure the implementation of the new national minimum wage in a couple of weeks in order to avert the wrath of workers.

'Towards this end, Congress-in-session resolved that if this is not achieved as envisaged by workers, congress will be left with no other option than to stop the April 2011 general elections. Congress-in-session has therefore directed the leadership of congress to put in place a mechanism to enforce this directive.'

In preparation for the showdown, in the event that the government failed to do all that was required of it, Omar disclosed that a meeting of the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the NLC would be summoned before the expiration of the ultimatum to set machinery in motion for action.

The NLC president stated that 'the most important thing we must send across is the fact that in line with the pursuit of the mandate given to us by the delegates' conference, the National Administrative Council (NAC) has decided to fix a meeting of the CWC for Monday the 28th of this month. That is where we will take a critical analysis of the journey so far and final decision taken regarding the national minimum wage.

'We have been pursuing this with all vigour and we are determined based on the mandate given us by Nigerian workers, that we will pursue it to its logical conclusion.

'We are aware of the disposition of Mr. President because he has pledged time without number that he would be ready to sign the bill into law. I will recall his letter to National Assembly urging it to give it an accelerated hearing and passage and on his part will be ready to sign it into law.

'Now that the only thing that remains is for Mr. President to sign it into law, I do hope that the president will fulfil his pledge to Nigerian workers by signing this into law between now and Monday 28th of this month when the CWC shall be meeting to consider the journey so far.

'The only thing we are waiting for is for Mr. President to sign the bill into law. We will be able to access the situation when the CWC meets and will take a final decision,' Omar said.

The Labour leaders expressed regret at the conflicting statements emanating from government quarters over who was holding down the bill between the president and the National Assembly.

According to him; 'The issue of national minimum wage is no longer a new thing in Nigeria. It is a struggle that we commenced way back in 2008 and so far we have cleared so many hurdles. It is my position on behalf of my colleagues to tell you that we are about to clear the last hurdle.

'The issue has been pursued with every vigour by Nigerian workers especially the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and also the leadership of the TUC.

'In recent past, we have been told stories about the signing of the new national minimum wage by the President of the Federal Republic which was made known to Nigerians through a minister and it was immediately debunked by the minister and the Minister of Labour also came out to say that even the bill was still lying with the legal department of the National Assembly.

'Well, that controversy raged but we are now reliably informed that the bill has actually been forwarded to the executive arm of government; therefore, the expectation is that Mr. President will sign the bill any moment and this is the expectation of Nigerian workers.

'Remember that the last delegate conference also gave a categorical mandate that we should do everything possible to ensure that the new national minimum wage is signed into law before the commencement of the general elections and the mandate given to the leadership of congress is that workers could go to any length to ensure that the new national minimum wage is signed into law so that we do not cross over to the next republic with any residue of the issue of the process of enacting the law concerning the national minimum wage.

'To that effect, we are taking a number of steps. We have written last week requesting an audience with Mr. President and we made it clear in our request that the issue of the new minimum wage is the major issue we wish to discuss with the President', Omar concluded.