THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) must collaboratively work together to ensure all the state governments implement the national minimum wage, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) has said.
The General Secretary of the union, Peters Adeyemi, explained that irrespective of the excuses advanced, there can be no justification for halting the payment of the wage to workers saying, prices of goods and services do not respect excuses no matter how tenable.
He added that the main task before elected officials is to solve problems through innovation and efficient management of resources and not to simply allocate available resources.
He argued that the governors must find ways of generating resources to meet state obligations as part of their duties.
“I suggest that the NLC and TUC should meet on this matter, set up an agenda on how governors of defaulting states can be approached and some actions should be taken to compel them to pay. The non-implementation of the national wage shows the actions of the governors are condemnable and unacceptable. Since the workers go to the same markets they have no moral justification to deny them the new wage. Their actions are unlawful and unconstitutional. With the law backing up the new wage, any governor that is not paying is committing an act of illegality,” he added.
Adeyemi submitted that the unwillingness of some of the governors to implement the new wage did not come to him as a surprise, saying, “Unfortunately, I served in the tripartite committee on the new national minimum wage as NLC representative at the negotiation. We had six governors representing each of the geopolitical zones. Except for the Kebbi State governor, the other five were not in support of the agenda. They were opposed to the new minimum wage and never wanted it. Ab initio, they never wanted to pay the wage. For them not paying the new wage to their workers is something we know would happen.”
The NASU scribe blamed the inability of the two trade centres to effectively picket states that are not implementing the wage on the advent of the COVID-19.
“It is unfortunate that we have not been able to picket the states, that even if you want to go and picket a state, you have to abide by the COVID-19 protocols. It was in the year 2020 that labour would have faced the states squarely since it was assented to in 2019 by President Buhari. But unfortunately, when we were supposed to start picketing of the states COVID-19 came in and was problematic,” he said.
However, he was quick to observe that with COVID-19 receding and activities gradually picking up, it is now time for the organised labour to begin to ask the relevant questions amid the devaluation of the Naira as well as rising inflation eroding the value of the N30,000 monthly minimum wage floor.
He said: “I believe that it is time for us in the movement to begin to ask questions as to why some state governments have refused to pay the wage. With the level of the depreciation of the naira now, it is the right time to insist that these governors must pay. While some states are saying they can’t pay, some states have raised the bar in internally generated revenue, they no longer depend on revenue from the federation account.”
As the 2023 elections approach, Adeyemi stated he does not see labour playing any significant role at this point.
“I don’t think workers can play any significant role in 2023. Unfortunately, this is coming from me. I am not optimistic because if we have to play a role, we should have before now started doing something,” he explained.
Apart from spearheading the implementation of the minimum wage by the two labour centres, the services rendered to affiliate unions by the centres leaves much to be desired.
According to him, though the centres intervened in several cases, they can still do better.
He stated: “In the last couple of months, there have been strikes in virtually all the sectors of the economy. The solutions have not lasted. That is why I think that the two labour centres should come together to address issues affecting workers in industrial unions that are affiliated with them. The labour centres cannot claim that they are in peace when their affiliates are in trouble. And because they generate resources from the affiliates, they have to do everything possible to ensure the affiliates are well represented.
“I expect that if NASU has issues, NLC should come and speak to those issues, they must not be only interested in the dues that we pay to them. For us to collect dues from our members and branches, we render services to them and if we don’t render those services they will question us. As we approach 2023, I think it is important they address these issues except they want a situation where they want the fortunes of the unions to further degenerate. The essence of affiliating to a labour centre or international body is for the centres to provide you with some technical assistance when you are in trouble.
“When I talk about all of these issues, they tell me that I am condemning those that are leading the labour centres. This is the truth and I will not stop saying the truth. I pay 10 to N12 million to NLC every month, I need to get some services from them and not just pay for nothing. My members are asking that we pay so much to the centre that what do we gain?”