Labour leader and member, National Salaries, Incomes, and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Issa Aremu, has said some lawmakers and governors lack sufficient knowledge of what the 1999 Constitution says about labour issues as it borders on minimum wage.
Aremu, who is also as Vice President, Industrial Global Union, at a press conference, yesterday, specifically described as “unhelpful, uninformed and diversionary” the controversial bill sponsored by Garba Mohammed representing Sabon Gari Federal Constituency, Kaduna State, which seeks to move minimum wage from exclusive to concurrent legislative list.
The bill had passed its second reading without a public hearing at the House of Representatives in February, a situation that infuriated labour to protest against it as lacking in transparency and accountability.
It also forced the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to stage protests at the National Assembly penultimate Wednesday.
Aremu urged all elected and appointed government officials to avail themselves of knowledge about labour issues, regretting that of recent, labour has become an all comers affairs, even as he said labour like money and capital markets is a specialised industry.
He advised lawmakers and governors to renew their social contract with their constituencies, adding that the sponsored bill showed “a scandalous disconnect” between some representatives and the people they represent.
He described as “a disgrace” the clamour by some governors for exclusive rights to determine minimum wage pay bellow the national minimum wage, adding that it showed the collapse of governance at subnational levels compared to what was obtainable in the Second Republic.
The labour leader said only President Muhamamdu Buhari and labour ministers, Chris Ngige and Festus Keyamo, could pronounce on minimum labour standards, while governors and legislators could compliment and not undermine it.
“Should the bill become law, the Federal Government will not have exclusive jurisdiction to determine a national minimum wage and states will now have the power to determine their own minimum wages. Since the Second Republic with the enactment of the inaugural minimum wage in 1981 as demanded for by NLC’s Chatter of Demands, it’s a settled issue that national minimum wage determination is a Federal Executive affairs who through ministries of Labour and Finance, Bureau ofStatistics, CBN has the data to engage organised labour and private sector be- fore arriving at the national minimum wage to ensure decent, not slave work and productivity.”
Aremu commended governors Simon Lalong of Plateau, Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano, Babajide Sanwo- Olu of Lagos and Godwin Obaseki of Edo states who pay wages more than the national minimum.
He recalled that not withstanding their less endowment in the 80s, progressive governors of UPN and PRP states pushed for higher minimum wages, which in turn compelled the NPN led government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari to negotiate N125 ($200) in 1981.
Aremu commended President Muhammadu Buhari for following in the footsteps of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’adua and Good Luck Jonathan to increase minimum wage as part of agenda for decent working growth and development.