The Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday said Nigerians should not blame the union for the looming industrial chaos in January owing to what it perceived as the silence of President Muhammadu Buhari over the N30,000 minimum wage.
The union also knocked Buhari for his proposed establishment of a technical committee to look into the minimum wage issue, stressing that the only recognised panel was the tripartite committee that had already submitted its report on the minimum wage.
The union had on Friday said in a communiqué issued after its meeting in Abuja that it would stage a nationwide protest on January 8, 2019 over what it described as the Federal Government’s delay in transmitting, enacting and implementing a new national minimum wage of N30,000 for workers.
The union also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate state governors for alleged diversion of the bailout funds and other finds released by the Federal Government to them.
Earlier, the union had frowned on a statement credited to the Nigeria Governors Forum which stated that states would not be able to pay the new minimum wage. The statement was released by the NGF Chairman, Abdulaziz Yari, after a meeting of the governors.
The NLC said it made a lot of sacrifices to lower its demand from N60,000 to N30,000, stressing that the governors were carried along before the new amount was arrived at.
It called on the governors not to treat workers like slaves.
In an exclusive chat with our correspondent in Abuja, the General Secretary of the NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, reiterated workers’ resolve not to accept anything lower than the proposed N30,000 minimum wage.
He said, “After the statement we issued on the coming industrial strike, we have not heard anything from the Presidency. The day we submitted the report, he (Buhari) promised that he would speedily transmit a draft bill to the National Assembly; but till today, about two months after, he has not transmitted that to the National Assembly.
“What we heard during the budget presentation at the National Assembly is that a high-powered technical committee will be set up. We find that very unfortunate because the technical committee in relation to minimum wage is the tripartite committee that has finished its work and made recommendations.
“Talking of any committee, be it low-powered, medium-powered or high-powered at this stage is unacceptable to us. We formally reject it and call on Mr President to send the bill to the National Assembly. The ultimatum we gave is for the bill to be sent to the NASS. The House took a resolution calling on the President to bring the bill; what is the difficulty he is having? If he cannot do it, nobody should hold organised labour in the country responsible for the industrial chaos that is likely to follow.”
The NLC secretary also knocked the governors for what he described as unaccountable expenditure, saying that the union was not using the forthcoming elections to blackmail them.
“The minimum wage issue is not a partisan issue. It is one of the issues that will determine the next elections. Workers are not slaves; politics is about interest and seeking one’s own interest. If workers in their states are saying that they will not vote for them because they have not taken care of their interest, you don’t call that blackmail. I have a different name for it; that is democracy. That is how democracy works. They can go and mourn till high heaven; we will continue to work in that direction,” Ozo-Eson added.