MINIMUM WAGE: RESIGN IF YOU CAN'T PAY, LABOUR TELLS GOVS
It was a show of muscle flexing yesterday, between the organized Labour and Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa over the contentious new national minimum wage.
General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Owei Lakemfa had taken a swipe at the Federal Government and the state governors over the perceived less than transparent manner they have been handling the issue of implementation.
The NLC scribe, who spoke on the occasion of the 2nd triennial Delegate Conference of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), had reiterated the position of Labour that any governor who could not pay the new wage to the state workers should quit as he had no business being in the office.
He also made allusion to the comment by Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam that even if the Labour should go on strike for one year, some of the governors would not be able to pay.
When it was the turn of the Kaduna Deputy Governor, Mukhtar Rammallan Yero, who represented the governor, to speak, he took exception to what he called threats by the Labour, saying Labour had been threatening the governors in the wake of the disagreements over the new wage.
Though amid shouts of 'No' by the delegates and other Labour leaders, Alhaji Yero said no governors would be moved by the threats and neither would any of them quit office because of inability to pay the new wage.
He explained that he was once a member of SSANU and had the experience of Labour activism and the thinking of unionists concerning issues like wage rise and now being a part of policy formulator, he had seen the difference that Labour threats could not move mountains.
According to him, if the Labours should find themselves in government they would also have the same opinion as the governors.
With shouts of 'No' intermittently from the audience, the deputy governor tried to cite an instance with the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who was a former NLC president, as one of the governors having running battles with his workers over the new wage, but the unionists insisted, he would pay.
'Has he paid? What we are saying is you need to be on the other side to understand what I am saying just like the vice chancellor said earlier, strike will not solve the problem and neither threat too, so we have to understand ourselves because give or take, the governors will pay eventually.
'No governor will leave his seat because he cannot pay the new wage. Labour should reconsider the use of threat that any governor who cannot pay should go. Governors need to be encouraged and not discourage,' he stated.
Earlier, Owei had given an analysis of the position of Labour over the new wage and the claim of subsidy, which the governors were pressurising the Federal Government to remove so that the state would have more money to pay the new wage.
The NLC scribe dismissed the claim, saying Nigerian government was exporting crude oil only to import refined products because it was 'crude in thinking', pointing out that many countries smaller than Nigeria run up to 30 refineries for adequate supply of petroleum to their citizen while Nigeria, which prides itself as giants of Africa could not run one refinery successfully.
Later in an interview, he described the position of Governor Suswam as irresponsible, wondering why a state government whose industry was civil service would say it was not concerned if the state civil service was shut down.
'Such governor who is not ready to pay the new wage cannot govern peacefully, because this is a matter of law, the governor as the chief security officer of their states cannot afford to be lawless, otherwise who will be expected to be law abiding?' Owei argued.
He disclosed that Labour would continue its meeting with government today and insisted that the deadline remains the end of this month as all categories of worker must have their August salaries reflect the new pay across board.
In his speech earlier, Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Abdulahi Mustapha, urged Labour to exercise caution in its agitation and that strike which was usually the last option was the most destructive when care was not taken.
Outgoing president of SSANU, Promise Adewusi, who is also the deputy president of the NLC, sided with his NLC colleague when he lamented that the government was pushing Labour to the wall with its attitude.