•Protesting workers have nothing to fear •NLC declares nine governors ‘anti-workers’
A bill seeking to re-order minimum wage negotiation will not see the light of day, federal lawmakers have said.
They gave the promise to Labour leaders yesterday during a protest march at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
“The bill will be killed the way a similar one was killed during the eighth National Assembly,” Senator Sabi Abdullahi told the protesters.
Abdullahi (Niger North), received the protesters, led by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba on behalf of Senate President Ahmad Lawan.
Labour organised the protests at the National Assembly complex in Abuja and House of Assembly complexes in the 36 states to press home its demand that the plan to re-classify minimum wage negotiation from the Executive List, to the Concurrent List, be dropped.
They carried placards. Their leaders wore the red protest bibs and marched in hundreds on the National Assembly after coming together at the Unity Fountain.
The protesters disrupted traffic, forcing lawmakers and staff members to seek alternative route into the National Assembly complex.
The intention of the bill, which has crossed the second reading in the House of Representatives, is to take wage negotiation from under the sole purview of the Federal Government, to allowing states freedom to negotiate wage with its workers “in line with our federalism.”
The bill is sponsored by Garba Muhammed (Kaduna State).
Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige has dissociated the Federal Government from the Bill.
Abdullahi along with House Leader Ado Doguwa, who represented Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, addressed the Labour team.
Abdullahi said: “As somebody has said earlier, we are progressive lawmakers and I want to tell you there are quite a large number of them in the National Assembly.
”Remember in the Eighth Assembly, I was spokesman of the Senate and I recall vividly that this issue of minimum wage was brought and we killed it.
“Has the condition that led to the Eighth Assembly decision changed? I want to say very clearly that in the past, we have stood toe-to-toe with Nigerian workers.
”There is nothing that suggests we are changing from that direction. Rather, we will stand by you to ensure that the fundamental right of every worker is not only enforced, but ensured and guaranteed.
“I want to guarantee you that on behalf of distinguished Senator Lawan, who is also a very progressive lawmaker, do not go home having any fear.
“Go home and sleep with your eyes closed. We are going to ensure that we do justice to the message you have brought to us.
”Action speaks louder that voice. Wait to see the action. I want to assure you that our colleagues will receive this message in full measure without any subtraction or addition.
”The way you brought it is the way they will see it. I assure you that justice will not only be done but will be seen to be done Insha Allah,”
Doguwa added that since it was clear that workers are against the minimum wage bill, the House would listen to their wishes.
He said the only justice that can be done to the bill is to kill it.
“You are in the right place and the right institution.
“May I say on behalf of my Speaker and the entire members of the House of Representatives that we are also by extension, members of the organised Labour. We are your employees.
”By this implication, we have no reason whatsoever to shy away from the interests and yearnings of Nigerian workers. When you are happy, we are happy.
”From what I am seeing now, it is clear that organised Labour is against that bill.
“We will still invite you to engage with the relevant committees.”
Wabba said NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) got the mandate of their affiliate unions to declare a nationwide strike if the issue was not addressed.
Wabba, who said nine governors are “anti-workers” because they are not paying the N30,000 minimum wage, added: “We are here today (yesterday) on behalf of Nigerian workers, on behalf of Nigerian pensioners, to make it clear and unambiguous that the bill that seeks to remove the minimum wage from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List is not accepted.
”The issue of National Minimum Wage is a standard set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the first agency of the United Nations(UN) born in 1919 after the first world war. So we have the powers of the UN.
“What I am reiterating is that: the National Minimum Wage is not a Nigerian standard. It is an international standard.
“Their argument is that because they want federalism, they want the issue of the National Minimum Wage to be removed to the Concurrent List. That is false.
“In the countries of the world, we have 26 federal nations that have minimum wage in their Exclusive List, including the United States. As I speak to you, the minimum wage of America is $10 per hour.
“President Joe Biden came in and the first statement he made was that he is going to review the national minimum wage.
”Let me also say that the argument that it is about federalism is false. Also, the argument about the ability to pay is false.”