By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Director General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, has urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to shelve its threats to embark on an indefinite strike if the National Assembly moves National Minimum Wage from Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List.
In a statement he issued yesterday, the PGF DG said the time has come for the labour leaders to embrace dialogue rather than the continue resorting to threats of strike as a strategy to achieve concession each time it has disagreement with the federal government.
Lukman said it is clear that some States are richer than others hence the NLC should sit with the government to consider the labour contribution in the overall production process and system.
The APC chieftain while condemning the use of strike as a hard stance threat by NLC in minimum wage review, said even at the time some States were still not able to pay the N18,000 minimum wage, the labour leaders forced a blanket N30,000 revised minimum wage on all States of the Federation.
He said “It may be convenient for the leadership of labour, including the NLC, to retain current framework of determining minimum wage based on the capacity of federal government. Unfortunately, our union leaders have weakened themselves so much that their negotiating power is hardly oriented based on knowledgeable disposition about workers input in the production process at all levels in the country. The only weapon they seem to use so often to win concessions and agreements is strike. Blackmails and muscle flexing has become an important integral strategy to discredit perceived opponents.
“Today, we have a minimum wage of N30,000, which unions have been unable to achieve implementation in many states and many private sector establishments. In fact, even at the time of negotiating the minimum wage of N30,000, there were problems of getting the old minimum wage of N18,000 in many states and private establishments implemented. Some of the states that were able to implement the minimum wage are barely surviving. Rather than objectively reviewing our challenges, our labour leaders imagined that name calling and threatening political leaders with strikes is the way to go. This is most unfortunate. NLC leadership may want to share the full picture of status of Implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage, both in the public and private sectors, with Nigerians.
“Elementary analysis would caution about the consequence of continuing with a centralised framework for minimum wage legislation based on using the financial capacity of Federal Government to fix national minimum wage that is hardly informed by economic indices of work output across the country and reflecting all sectors of the economy. Such a framework can only result in either shortchanging workers in high-revenue states/areas or over-stretching employers in low-revenue states/areas. Certainly, a review of wage fixing theories would highlight these challenges and perhaps dangers.”
According to Lukman, it is difficult not to conclude that NLC and its leadership have a misplaced priority.
He said as a union federation, NLC’s primary responsibility should be to ensure that Nigerian workers are able to have all it takes to guarantee maximum production.
“Wages are supposed to be the share paid to workers for their role in production. As things are in Nigeria, at all levels, production is low and in many cases wages, especially in the public sector, are hardly a function of workers’ productivity. Part of the difficulty, which our democracy must address is the question of developing the labour market. With more than 200 million population, could NLC be contented with its current low membership of far less than 20,000?
“In terms of potential, if our workers are optimally productive, minimum wage should not be anywhere less than N100,000. What is the proposal of organised labour, including NLC regarding how to increase employment, have decent wage that is indexed with both workers productivity and cost of living realities? Is it even an issue for concern for our labour leaders that workers productivity in the country is low?”