The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has declared that attempts by the 36 governors of the federation to cut the N18,000 minimum wage over their inability to meet the wage obligations to workers will amount to a declaration of war.
In a statement in Abuja on Sunday, November 22, the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the declaration by the governors was an attempt to frustrate efforts by the organised labour to table a proposal for a review of the minimum wage, which was signed in 2011.
He said: “The Nigeria Labour Congress is shocked by the statement credited to the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari, that the N18,000 national minimum wage promulgated into law in 2011 was no longer sustainable because of the fall in the price of crude oil.
“The governor who was speaking on behalf of his colleagues at the end of a meeting of the forum also claimed that the national minimum wage was ‘imposed’.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this attempt to reverse the national minimum wage is a declaration of war against the working people of this country, and we would have no alternative than to mobilise to respond to this act of aggression by the political class on our welfare.
“For the record, the 2011 National Minimum Wage Act came into existence after almost two years of agitation and negotiation by the tripartite of government (represented by both the federal and state governments), the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) representing other employers (in the private sector) and organised labour.
“This is in the best tradition of a tripartite negotiation recognised and codified by the International Labour Organisation.
“As organised labour, we submitted a request for N52,000 and provided justification for it as the minimum wage which a worker and his recognised legal dependents need to live a healthy life over 30 to 31 days in a month.”
Wabba said, it was out of labour’s “patriotic disposition and consideration” that the unions reluctantly agreed to the N18,000 minimum wage, even though they deemed it grossly inadequate as a living wage.
“Many of the state governments who submitted memoranda to the tripartite negotiating committee recommended figures that were far above the N18,000 that was eventually agreed.
“The governors cannot therefore want Nigerians to take them seriously by their present claim that the current national minimum wage was ‘imposed’ on them!
“For us in the Nigeria Labour Congress, we know as a fact that their ability to pay minimum wages is not the problem of the economy. The problem for states and other tiers of government is what the high number of political office holders and their unproductive aides take away as wages.
“For the private sector, the creed to accumulate more and more profit is also always a motivating factor to keep wages down.
“Similarly, we have been in the forefront of campaigning that the cost of governance at all levels needs to be drastically cut to free enough resources for development.
“The hundreds of billions of naira our public office holders continue to fritter away in the name of governance is what is not sustainable,” the NLC president stated.