The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have again warned against the transfer of all labour matters from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list, which was intended to kill national unions in Nigeria.
This development being recommended by the Committee on Devolution of Powers at the ongoing National Conference was contrary to the recommendation of the Committee on Civil Society, Labour and Sport, the labour unions said.
Asides eliminating national unions, removing labour matters from the Exclusive List would also decentralise the National Minimum Wage, and empower states to fix their own minimum wages.
At a joint press briefing in Abuja Sunday, the President General of the TUC, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama said it was a move that would not be tolerated by the labour organisations.
He accused the Chairman of the Committee, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, of holding a personal grudge and exerting revenge because a local union in his state once went on sympathy strike over national issue.
“The governors and other political office holders had their salaries fixed nationally by revenue mobilisation, allocation and fiscal commission (a kind of minimum wage for political holders) and yet pushing for the denial of minimum wage for workers. What a tragic irony," he said.
Kaigama recalled that during the constitutional amendment process in 2013, the Senate attempted to remove Labour Matters from the Exclusive, while the House of Representatives sided with the Nigerian people and retained it.
"If National Unions are killed in Nigeria, how will the country continue to participate in ILO Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) under Convention 144 of 1976? Will the ILO invite hundreds of unions that will emerge in Nigeria into its Tripartite Committee?" he read from the joint release.
"What will these revisionists gain when Nigeria retreats to a chaotic regime whereby states will start legislating on labour issues thereby returning Nigeria to the dark ages," Kaigama added.
The Labour organisations warned that when states are allowed to set labour standards and regulate labour relations, the competition to attract location of economic activities could make them lower labour standards.
It can also create fragmented economies within the national economy thereby hurting the national economy in the long run, the labour further explained.
The Chief Strategist of the NLC, Comrade Peter Esan said the organisations decided to alert Nigerians on this plot by the Committee on Devolution of Powers even though the final position would be taken at the plenary.
He added that the governors, who first presented the suggestion during the clamour for the new national minimum wage, needed to be educated on the implication of what they were trying to do.
Earlier, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) had called on delegates to the National Conference not to succumb to the pressure of governors bent on removing wage and other related labour matters from the Exclusive Legislative list to the Concurrent list.
This, it stated will give state governments the leeway to begin to pay wages as low as N5,000 monthly to workers in their respective states.
Reacting to call the call by the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola that minimum wage should be deregulated, the association warned the governor to stop his campaign against retaining the minimum wage in the Exclusive Legislative list or face the wrath of workers.
The association wondered why Fashola has not been campaigning that salaries of governors and other political officer holders should be deregulated rather than being centrally fixed by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
In a statement jointly signed by its National President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama and Secretary-General, Alade Lawal respectively, the union expressed surprise that the Lagos State Governor who parades himself as a progressive has continued to wage war against the N18,000 National Minimum Wage approved by the federal government in 2011.
It warned that if pushed to the wall, “it will begin the process of exposing the humongous wealth and assets of some heartless politicians so that Nigerians can know exactly who their friends are and why they are taking rigid stand on issues bordering on welfare of the masses.”
The union explained that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 131, 1970 of which Nigeria is a signatory, enjoins countries of the world to adopt a minimum wage to protect workers from exploitative employers.
Speaking further, it added that monthly minimum wage in some advanced countries of the world and other nations that are less endowed than Nigeria pay more as national minimum wage and wondered why state governments cannot pay paltry N18, 000 monthly wage.
“Some of the advanced countries and their minimum wages include: USA, 1,243 Dollars; Japan, 1,548 dollars; Germany 1,145 dollars; UK, 1,655 dollars; Canada, 1,903 dollars; Australia, 1,597 dollars; Spain, 1,044 dollars amongst others.
In less developed environment, it is as follows: “Ecuador, $3,816 per annum; Iran, $4,801 per annum; Libya, $2,459 per annum; Kuwait, $2,571 per annum; Venezuela, $4,680 per annum. Aside from OPEC Countries, other nations that are less endowed than Nigeria pay more as National Minimum Wage.
“So if these civilised and advanced countries as well as others in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa, Australia too numerous to mention here have national minimum wage, where did Fashola get his funny idea that minimum wage is unnecessary and as such the N18, 000 meagre minimum wage in Nigeria which amounts to 102 dollars monthly should be abolished?” the union asked.
It added: “We wish to advise the governor to concentrate on his job as governor and stop offending the sensibilities of Nigerian workers who have been so marginalised that they can no longer take care of their families,” the statement stressed.