The Nigeria Labour Congress NLC has condemned in strong terms the removal of Wages from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent Legislative list by the National Assembly in the on-going fourth amendment exercise to the 1999 constitution, saying it is considering a total strike action to protest the decision.
A statement signed by the General Secretary of NLC, Peter Ozo Eson described the move as an act of betrayal masterminded by conservative governors and their cohorts in the National Assembly which will do the polity no good.
The current arrangement if passed into law means state governments will have the power to fix the wages of workers in their various states as against the current situation where all wages are fixed by the Federal Government.
In the statement Congress further said the reason why it is necessary for the government at the federal level to fix minimum wage is to ensure that employees, particularly the unorganized and unskilled, are not exploited by their employers to the extent that their pay becomes so low that it creates a pool of the working poor.
The full text of the statement...
WE SHALL RESIST THIS
The Nigeria Labour Congress condemns in strong terms the removal of Wages from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List by the National Assembly (NASS) in the on-going fourth amendment exercise to the 1999 constitution.
We at the Congress see the removal of Wages from the Exclusive List as an act of treachery masterminded by conservative governors and their cohorts in the National Assembly which will do the polity no good.
We wish to state in no uncertain terms that the Congress will mobilize its members to resist this move to scrap the national minimum wage.
We recall that last year our national campaign and mobilization on this subject matter was suspended at the instance of the leadership of the Senate which promised to revisit the issue now that they “are better informed”.
We recall paying tribute to the House of Representatives, who in their wisdom did not contemplate removing Wages from the Exclusive List.
It is also worth recalling that the just concluded National Conference retained Wages on the Exclusive List in deference to the logic of the argument for the necessity of maintaining Wages on the Exclusive List.
We have generated and circulated enough literature on this subject matter and we are completely at a loss as to the rationale for this turn-around.
We advise the National Assembly to hearken to the voice of reason and the voice of the people by urgently retracing their steps because the consequences of their action could be dire for the nation.
We have explained as often as necessary that the basic rationale for the fixing of a minimum wage is to ensure that employees, particularly the unorganized and unskilled, are not exploited by their employers to the extent that their pay becomes so low that it creates a pool of the working poor.
Minimum Wage Laws are in force in approximately 90% of the countries of the world today. Why would Nigeria leave this group for the negative 10%?
One of the implications of this amendment is the jettisoning by the NASS of the concept of a national minimum wage as enshrined in the 1999 constitution (Item 34 of the Second Schedule). What this means is that every individual employer will determine it’s minimum wage. This is extremely retrogressive and dangerous.
The other implication is that it will turn the wage determination process in states into a “legislative” exercise instead of the universal best practice model of collective bargaining as enshrined in the ILO Convention 154 on Collective Bargaining as well as Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.
In light of the foregoing, the Congress believes the removal is a deliberate and calculated attempt to move us from the working poor to the slave-poor.
We also believe it is a conscious ploy by some people to truncate the on-going electioneering process.
An emergency NEC has been convened for Monday October 27, to mobilize workers for further action.
We appeal to the Nigerian people to show understanding in the event of fall-outs from our proposed action.
Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson