The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency, review and set a new national minimum wage to reflect the current economic realities facing Nigerian workers.
The organised labour union therefore called on the government to reconstitute the national minimum wage negotiating council.
This call was made on Monday by the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, at the Independence Day symposium and rally organised to recognise the contributions and labour of those who worked and promoted the idea of ‘One Nigeria’ as well as working to provide selfless service for the country.
Wabba said for the significance of independence, especially for workers and trade unions in Nigeria, the fundamental International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, Convention 87 that guarantees Freedom of Association and the right of workers to Collective Bargaining was ratified by the Nigerian Government on October 17, 1960, just 17 days after independence.
“When workers are denied the right to freedom of association by states like Kogi, which recently tried to proscribe ASUU in the Kogi State University, exercising powers they do not have constitutionally, it shows that these people do not have a sense of history-as these freedoms came with our independence,” he said.
According to him, one of the founding principles of the ILO as contained in the founding constitution almost a century ago, in 1919, was the declaration that universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.
The Labour president noted that addressing the issue of poverty and inequality and economic imbalances between the super-rich minority and the rest of the population is one of the key challenges of the nationhood today.
He said: “Our middle class has more or less been wiped out. What we now have are a few who are at the top (the very rich) and the vast majority of the people at the bottom ladder who are poor.
“It is in the above context that the government must refocus its development programmes and planning to address the pressing needs of the vast majority of Nigerians that are excluded if the upheavals we are having in different parts of the country is not going to develop into a convulsion. Government must address the critical area of full, productive and decent employment.
“On the occasion of our 57th Independence Anniversary, we must again ask the federal government to reconstitute the national minimum wage negotiating council to enable us negotiate a new national minimum wage for this country urgently. The 2011 collective agreement entered into with the government at the end of the last negotiations, provided for a five-year cycle, for reopening negotiations, which is overdue.
“Secondly, all economic indexes such as inflationary rate, cost of living index, exchange rate, high cost of goods and services among others, have all shown that the current minimum wage of N18, 000 is obsolete. There is an urgent need for the government to give the go ahead for these negotiations to start as workers are running out of patience.”
Speaking further, Wabba stressed that in almost six decades of its Independence, Nigerians are not where they ought to be, in virtually all facets of development indexes, looking at the available human and natural resources.
He however, cautioned that the country should not be dismissed as a failed nation “because while there are a number of countries that are our peers in nationhood that have made tremendous progress, there are also a number of other countries that got independence around the same time as we did, that have not progressed as much as we have.”
He however, noted that during the colloquium NLC organised recently on the discourse on ‘restructuring and the role of the working class’, a dominant issue that emerged was the fact that one of the greatest problems or challenges of Nigeria has been the absence of good governance in the polity.
This, he said, informed their decision to have as a theme for the programme: ‘Making Nigeria work for the people’.
Speaking further, Wabba said for Nigeria to truly develop and industrialise, all patriots must join in the struggle to bring back the country to being an arrow head and engine of development.
He stated that all stakeholders must discard the dictates of the international financial institutions and invest massively in education, health care and other social services, and upgrade infrastructure in such critical area as energy among others.