FG, NLC Differ on Legal Stipulations on Minimum Wage

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The federal government and the Nigerian Labour Congress disagree on when the minimum wage can be reviewed as stipulated by the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission’s Act

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  May 16, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE federal government has disagreed with organised labour on the issue of a review of the minimum wage every five years. Richard Egbule, executive chairman, National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, said five-year periodic review of the national minimum wage was part of recommendations made by a committee which were not included in the  commission’s Act.

Egbule, who made the comment on a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, on Wednesday, April 4, said what was done during the last review of the minimum wage was an amendment of the Act and changing of figures.

The issue of the review of the minimum wage every five years came up when it was suggested that the 10 years review period in the past years, as was done in 1980 to 1990, 2000 and 2011, was too long and should be reduced to five years. But there is no law in the country which stipulates the review of the minimum wage every 10 years.

The five-year period for minimum wage review was just the content of a committee’s report and not a collective agreement duly signed by the parties involved. The labour leaders might be confusing the constitutional provision for a review of pension every five years once a salary review was done, which he said was a different issue.

“The first time it (review of minimum wage) was done was in 1980. It was again done in 1990. It was again done in 2000 and lastly 2011. Of course, it was ready by 2010. So in between, there has been a period of 10 years for the review of the past ones although recently, in the last one, there were quite a number of recommendations.

“One of them was the issue that instead of a 10-year arrangement, it should be every five years, but that recommendation was not taken up and enacted into law. The only thing that was done was the issue of picking the figures and changing them. There are quite a number of very important recommendations in that report that were not taken.

“Even as I speak, the issue of reviewing it every 10 years was rather coincidental. There is no such law anywhere that guarantees that it should be done every 10 years. What the last recommendation did was to say that it was too long.  The 10-year interval was too long; so, there was a recommendation that it should be five years, but the recommendation, which affected so many other things, was never enacted into law.

“So if anybody says, like labour is saying, that it is in the law, every five years, they have to do it, it is not correct. Probably, they are confusing this with a provision for a review of the pension every five years, whenever there is a review of salaries of workers. This is a separate issue; it is not about minimum wage,” Egbule said.

According to him, it was the practice of the government to issue a White Paper or gazette a report for implementation, which was not done in the case of the five-year period review for the minimum wage. He said there was nothing wrong in engaging labour on the issue of the economy, the cost of living, the ability of employers to pay, the International Labour Organisation convention and others that would form the basis for discussions.

Contrarily, the unions had on Wednesday, April 27, while proposing the N56,000 new minimum wage to the federal government, insisted that the Act provided for a review every five years.

Ayuba Wabba, president, NLC, said it is true that the economy is not doing well, but the law stated that wages for workers must be reviewed after every five years. He said the issue must be looked into by the federal government and workers should not be seen as sleeping on their rights.

He recalled that the last review of the national minimum wage was done in 2011 and that the setting up of a tripartite committee to review the newly proposed national minimum wage was long overdue. He said it was imperative that the government should set up the tripartite committee for the review of the new minimum wage. Wabba said this was the only way the representatives of unions and government would fashion out the negotiation process at a roundtable. According to him, the logic behind the new minimum wage is to ensure that no worker earns below what can sustain him or her for a period of 30 days.

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