Nigerian workers are reportedly mobilising for a nationwide strike over the non-implementation of the new national minimum wage. Operating under the aegis of the Trade Union Side (TUS) of the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), the eight unions in the federal and state public services disclosed that they might commence industrial action if the government fails to implement the new national minimum wage of N30,000 per month. The workers are calling for the adjustment of salaries of officers from Grade Levels 1-17 in such a way as to maintain the existing relativity in the salary structure in the public service.
We can recall that the struggle for the new national wage commenced in 2011 and was concluded with the April 18, 2019, signing of the new minimum wage bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. During the marking of this year’s Workers’ Day, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, promised to ensure the full implementation of the new minimum wage of N30,000 by the state governments and all employers of labour.
We, therefore, urge the Federal and state governments as well as other stakeholders to ensure that nothing derails the seamless implementation of the new minimum wage forthwith. Nigerian workers need not embark on another nationwide strike before they are paid the new wage.
It should be noted that the new wage was arrived at because the former minimum wage of N18,000 was unrealistic. Without doubt, the government approved the new wage to stave off industrial unrest and give workers a living wage.
The government should just do that without being prompted. Therefore, the unnecessary delay in the implementation of the new wage, no matter the reason, is uncalled for. Government’s commitment to the welfare of workers must not be politicised. In the light of the new threat to industrial peace which the nation can ill-afford at this point in time, government should quickly meet the labour unions and resolve the matter once and for all.
We believe that this is the best way to avert the looming industrial action. We enjoin the Federal Government to commence the implementation of the new minimum wage with its workers to serve as an example to the states and the private sector.
In South Africa, the new minimum wage, which was signed into law on December 4, 2018, by President Cyril Ramaphosa came into effect on January 1, 2019. The Federal Government must reassure the workers that the new minimum wage should be implemented. The state governments and the private sector must also assure their workers that the new wage should be paid.
The government must never renege on its agreements with striking labour unions. It should at all times honour its agreements. It is good that the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has waded into the matter. His appeal to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to shelve its plan for strike is timely and commendable. We call on the leadership of the NLC to exercise restraint and show more understanding on the issue. We say this because no meaningful achievement can be made in an atmosphere of industrial discord.
We also urge the government to go beyond this initiative to generally address the problems associated with the enhancement of the national minimum wage in future. There should be a standard procedure that is seamless. It is unfortunate that the government and representatives of labour were unable to agree on a definite percentage at the final meeting of the committee set up by the Federal Government to negotiate the implementation structure of the new wage.
All the same, government should commence the implementation of the new minimum wage. It should do everything possible to avert the looming industrial action.