Differential wage: Labour moves against National Assembly, holds nationwide protest today

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The Nigerian Labour Congress will today (Wednesday) hold a nationwide protest over moves by the National Assembly to remove the national minimum wage from the exclusive to the concurrent legislative list.

The congress in an invitation to journalists on Tuesday said the protest would hold in the 36 states’ Houses of Assembly and at the National Assembly in Abuja.

It added that the protest would start from the Unity Fountain, Abuja, at 7.30 am to the National Assembly complex.

Recall that a bill seeking to remove the negotiation on minimum wage from the exclusive list to the concurrent list passed the second reading in the House of Representatives on February 23.

According to the sponsor, Garba Mohammed (APC Kano), the bill is to allow both the federal and state governments to freely negotiate minimum wage “with their workers in line with our federalism.”

But the NLC opposed the plan, describing the bill as an attempt to undermine Nigeria’s working class.

The invitation read, “The Nigeria Labour Congress and its allies will tomorrow (Wednesday) embark on a nationwide protest against attempts by some elements at the National Assembly to remove the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list. In Abuja, it will mobilise from the Unity Fountain at 7.30am to the National Assembly.”

The spokesman, Ministry of Labour, Charles Akpan, said the ministry had “no comment for now.”

The police could not be reached for comment on the planned protest as the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, was unreachable.

The congress had in a communiqué issued at the end of the emergency meeting of its National Executive Council penultimate Tuesday said it had empowered the National Administrative Council of the NLC to declare and enforce a national strike action, “especially if the legislators continue on the ruinous path of moving the national minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list.”

In a related development, the Trade Union Congress has directed its members to mobilise for a protest and occupation of the National Assembly complex on Wednesday against the Assembly’s move to remove the Minimum Wage Act from the exclusive to the concurrent legislative list.

This instruction was contained in a communiqué jointly signed by the TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, and the Secretary General, Musa Lawal, at the end of a National Executive Council meeting of the TUC on Thursday in Delta.

The union condemned the failure of some state governments to implement the new minimum wage and pension and charged the state councils of TUC to mobilise with the NLC and ensure full compliance of the action in their respective states.

TUC demanded that state governments yet to implement the new national minimum wage should commence negotiations with the Joint Negotiation Council in their respective state to avoid declaration of trade dispute.

However, a civil society group, the United Global Resolve for Peace, described the bill as an opportunity for economic restructuring in the country.

Its Executive Director, Olaseni Shalom, argued that the national minimum wage slowed down the economy because states that could pay more than the minimum wage would hold back while states that were not doing well financially would be pressured to pay the national minimum wage, thus putting pressure on their revenue.

He stated, “It s better to decentralise the minimum wage because a national wage would be a disincentive to the workers. It would be good if each state can determine its own minimum wage.

“We have been advocating economic restructuring where states can determine, own their future and revenue. This bill is a good opportunity to achieve this.”

Speaking on the matter, the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, said what the nation needed was restructuring, noting that decentralisation would fast track development in the country.

He described the current leadership of organised labour as a disappointment, noting that the civil society would not be marching with them.

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