SIGNING OF N30,000 MINIMUM WAGE IS NOT AN END ON ITS OWN
May – June 2019 Edition
SIGNING OF N30,000 MINIMUM WAGE IS NOT AN END ON ITS OWN
- The leadership of NLC, TUC and ULC must be ready for a united and concerted struggle to force the full implementation without retrenchment of workers in public and private sectors
By Abbey Trotsky
After over three years the N18, 000 National Minimum Wage was legally due for an upward review, the Buhari-led administration was on the April 18, 2019 was reported to have given its assent to the new N30, 000 National Minimum Wage Act.
It will be recalled that it took the mass protest staged by workers during the 2018 May Day rally in Abuja before Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government could be compelled to set up a tripartite committee to negotiate a new minimum wage.
The newly signed figure of N30, 000 was submitted by the tripartite committee to the Buhari-led presidency as the new minimum wage on Nov, 6, 2018. This was with the expectation that the presidency would immediately transmit it as an executive bill to the National Assembly for its passage into law. Unfortunately, this was not done until when the presidency was threatened with an ultimatum prior to the general elections by the labour leadership.
Eventually, the new minimum wage was transmitted to the National Assembly on January 23, 2019. Even after the bill was passed into law by the National Assembly on the march 19, 2019 and transmitted to the Presidency for assent, it was so disheartening to note that it took a new. May 1st 2019, ultimatum issued by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) before the Buhari-led administration could be compelled to give assent to the approved bill of N30, 000 Minimum Wage.
It is important to state that without all of the protests, agitations, warning strike and threat of indefinite strike embarked upon by the Nigeria workers over the past three years, there are chances that the new minimum wage of N30, 000 wouldn’t have been enacted by now.
Given this background it is very clear that the signing of the N30,000 minimum wage is not a product of any form of benevolence on the part of either president or members of the National Assembly. The implication therefore, is that now without a concerted and united struggle of mass of the Nigeria workers across the three labour centres, NLC, TUC and ULC the chances that the newly signed N30, 000 minimum wage will be respected and implemented are very slim. But initiative must not just be left to the labour leadership which often drags its feet anytime struggle calls. There is urgent need for discussion to commence within the rank and file of the labour movement and among activists on how to begin to prepare for the struggle for implementation of the minimum wage and especially how to avoid the mutilated manner the N18,000 wage was implemented from states to states in 2011. The success or otherwise of the struggle in each states will depend far more on the capacity of the rank and file activists to organise to compel their unions to act than on the labour leadership themselves who left alone may not raise a finger. Local or state level union organisations may be compelled to initiate struggle themselves. However, even where the implementation is forced, the practical experience from the implementation of the 2011 national minimum wage act after protracted struggles from state to state shows that there are high chances that the implementation will be characterised with all forms of manipulations and adulterations, alongside possible retrenchments.
N30, 000 MINIMUM WAGE LAW NEEDS AN URGENT CLARIFICATION
Internationally there is an agreement from country to country, over definition of the national minimum wage which according to the International Labour Organisation, ILO, is the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay earners for the work performed during a given period. Unfortunately, There is no agreement over what is the real content of the minimum wage. In some countries, only basic wages are taken into account for the purpose of minimum wages while numbers of countries include many other wage components.
In case of Nigeria, the Director of the Nigeria Employers’ of Consultative Association, NECA, in 2011 cited “Item iii on page xi of the report of the tripartite committee on the national minimum wage 2010 while claiming that the national minimum wage of N18,000 per month is a total emolument. Up till this moment neither the leadership of the NLC nor that of the TUC has come out in official statement to substantiate the veracity of such a claim.
The absence of this kind of clarification at the initial stage of the enactment of the N18,000 minimum obviously limited the understanding of the rank and file Nigeria workers to a large extent some layers of leadership particularly at the state level of the real content of the minimum wage itself and weakens their confidence and courage during the struggle for the implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage. At the same time, it places the various state governments at the advantage position to doctor, manipulate and force a ridiculous salary scales on Nigeria workers in their respective states.
Therefore to avert the repeat of this kind of situation demands the need for the leadership of the three labour centres to come out with an official document that will enunciate the real content of the newly signed N30, 000 minimum wage act. The production of such a document which will have to be made available to the leadership of the trade unions at state and branch levels is very important in the sense that it can form a basis to organise a series of programmes like, public symposia and seminars through which the document to clarify the real content of N30, 000 minimum wage act itself can be subjected to a thorough discussion and debate among mass of workers across the country. This is with a view to ensure that rank and file workers have a full understanding of exact content of the newly signed N30,000 minimum wage act without any form of distortion and misrepresentation.
LABOUR MUST DEMAND AN END TO CASUALIZATION AS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE STRUGGLE FOR THE NEW MINIMUM WAGE
In the 2011 national minimum wage act there are some statutory provision that exempted some establishments and employers of labour from respecting and implementing the national minimum wage. Among this provision is that the national minimum wage do not apply to any establishment with less than fifty employees as well as any establishment in which the employees are engaged on part-time basis and paid on commission or on a piece-rate basis.
If this particular provisions are also included in the new minimum wage act signed by the president it will mean that most of the workers in private sectors will be denied of the right to benefit from the new minimum wage. This is because majority of Nigeria workers in most private owned establishments across the country today are either employed on contract basis or paid on commission/ a piece-rate basis under out-sourcing arrangement. This is an unfair labour practice in favour of the bosses.
It is in the light of this, the leadership of the three labour centres, NLC, TUC and ULC must include the struggle to end casualization and contract staffing as an integral part of the struggle for the meaningful implementation of the new minimum wage act.
ENOUGH OF EXCUSE OF NO MONEY! LABOUR MUST ALSO INSIST ON THE PAYMENT OF ALL SALARY AND PENSION ARREARS!
The question of immediate payment of all the salary and pension arrears that the Nigeria workers are owed from sector to sector as well as defaulting states across the country must also be seen as an integral and crucial aspect of the demand for the implementation of a new minimum wage. Unless this is done the entire signing of the whole N30, 000 minimum wage act will amount to little or nothing. This is because the backlog of salary and pension arrears will become a bad precedent that the state governors will begin to use as an instrument to frustrate the implementation of any upward review of minimum wage in order to always deny the Nigeria workers of the benefit.
Therefore, to be able to force the full implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage act without any retrenchment of workers will require the leadership of labour unions to develop a standard approach to the usual lies and falsehood of lack of enough fund often peddled by the government at all levels irrespective of political parties affiliations to frustrate the implementation of minimum wage each time it’s reviewed upwardly.
Workers must also supports the demands like placing political office holders on the salary of civil servants and replacement of dubious contract system with public work programmes under a democratic control and management of the workers and the community. This must be raised with a view to liberate a huge amount of resources often in the hands of politicians and their acolytes who often masquerades as contractors but whose preoccupation is to loot public funds.
LABOUR MUST BUILD A MASS PARTY TO WRESTLE POWER FOR THE INTEREST OF WORKERS AND POOR NOW!
Beyond the question of implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage act is the need for the leadership of the trade unions particularly the leadership of the three labour centres to commence the process to either build a mass political party that will accommodate the active involvement and participation of workers, students and the masses or work with the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), which is a pro-working people political party, to build it as a mass party that could wrest power from the thieving ruling elites at all levels.
This is because until pro-masses socialist government is formed, the right to living wage and decent living will continue to elude the working masses as well as the overall economic and political aspirations of the Nigerian working people will be in jeopardy. Let us not forget that last September the Labour centres agreed to demand a N65,000 minimum wage but the ruling class argued that this was impossible. in response, Labour must say loud and clear that as capitalism cannot provice a real living wage a socialist alternative is needed. For us the key to the socialist programmes espoused as the only way out for the working people is the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under a democratic control and management of the elected representative of workers and the poor masses in order to encourage adequate and proper funding of social services like education, health care, public-led agriculture and infrastructural development.