The organised labour unions have threatened to boycott next month’s general election unless the Federal Government takes action on the N30,000 minimum wage bill.
This was made known by the respective labour leaders in Tuesday’s nationwide process to drive home the labour’s demand.
A national officer of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Boniface Isok, who said he was in Calabar to monitor the rally, maintained that workers would not participate in the 2019 general elections if the minimum wage was not implemented.
Isok said that the organised labour would not hesitate to embark on an indefinite strike if the Federal Government failed to transmit the bill to the National Assembly.
“Anytime the Federal Government heard that we want to go on strike, they will fix a meeting with no reason for it. This time, we are not giving a notice for strike.
“The Federal Government wants to hold the 2019 general elections without implementing the minimum wage because they know that once the election is held, that becomes the end of the minimum wage.
“If the Federal Government does not sign the minimum wage bill into law, there will be no election. We are ready for them this time,’’ he said.
Similarly, workers in Edo State said they would boycott the 2019 general election if the N30,000 minimum wage bill was not transmitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Chairman, Edo NLC, Mr Emmanuel Ademokun, spoke on Tuesday in Benin, when he led a protest march to Government House, to press for the payment of the new minimum wage.
Ademokun said Nigerian workers were the least paid in the world, noting that, “it must be N30,000 minimum wage on or before election or no election.”
“We are here to express our grievances over the non-transmission of the N30,000 minimum wage to the National Assembly, because we are aware that the bill has been presented to the president.
“Workers must decide who will govern them,” he said.
In Bayelsa, workers said a speedy passage of the N30, 000 new National Minimum Wage into law would determine the voting pattern of workers in the state.
The two unions, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), made their position known during a protest march in Yenegoa for the review of the national minimum wage.
Mr John Ndiomu of the NLC, who decried the delay in transmitting the recommendations of the Tripartite Committee on the new minimum wage to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, urged both the federal and state governments to make workers well-being their priority.
Ndiomu said that workers in Bayelsa were willing to support government policies aimed at improving workers welfare.
He explained that the implementation of the new wage would largely determine the electoral preference of workers in 2019.
“Let us make it clear, Nigerian workers will indeed take their electoral fate to the polling units and indicate in the ballots their views on the faithful implementation of the new minimum wage.
“We are going to say no to any candidate in the forthcoming elections, who hesitates or refuses to commit to the new wage.
“For avoidance of of doubt, the new minimum wage will largely determine the electoral preference of workers in 2019,” he said.
Mr Tari Dounana, Chairman of TUC, said the wage was an issue of law that must be supported and implemented for the betterment of workers well-being.
“The protest today is peaceful and we are still calling on government at all levels to be committed to improving workers’ welfare,” Dounana said.
Mr Talford Ongolo, Chief of Staff, Bayelsa Government House, who received the labour unions, said the state government was in support of the N30,000 new minimum wage.
This is even as the Federal Government has finally fixed January 23 to transmit the National Minimum Wage Bill to the National Assembly.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, gave the assurance at the end of a closed-door meeting with the leadership of organised labour on Tuesday in Abuja, after a protest by the Labour.
He said a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed to that effect.
“On the part of government, we are going to try to religiously implement all the processes that will enable us to transmit this bill within the stipulated time. We have a target time of January 23, and we hope that all things being equal, the executive will be able to do so.
“We will take on the statutory meetings of the Federal Executive Council, National Economic Council and the National Council of States to enable us to transmit the bill on the new national minimum wage,” Ngige said.
The minister commended the labour for its cooperation and understanding, and appealed for the withdrawal of the threat of an industrial action, saying that it was no longer necessary.
Confirming the agreement, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, however pointed out that the labour would not tolerate a breach.
He warned that the labour position would be reviewed without further recourse to the government.
“Our position is clear and through our negotiation, they know very well that not yielding to the terms is going to spell a reaction not good for the industrial atmosphere of the country. We have it in good faith that they will honour their part of the bargain. We will continue to sensitize our member that once it is 24th and nothing is done, we swing into action,”he said.
Continuing, Wabba said: “We have agreed that the agreement reached should be documented and it should be signed by government representatives and organised labour; we thought that is a more firm commitment.
“We believe with this, we can actually start following up the process; we have asked them to keep faith with the timeline, so that it will be concluded, as the minimum wage issue has been on the table for the past two years.
“We also thought that after having submitted the report and also drafted a draft the bill, by now, we expected that it should have been submitted.”
While noting that, the NASS would resume from their recess on January 16, he expressed optimism that the legislature would do the needful once the document gets to it, since the legislators are desirous of ensuring that Nigerian workers earn a decent wage.
“We will shift our lobby to the NASS because once the bill is enacted, the money will be in the pockets of the workers.
“The issue of industrial relations is always addressed at the roundtable. We have been diligent in the whole process and workers have been patient.
“So, we are committed to the process and hope that the timeline will be respected.
“We will put this across to our organs and give them all the details contained in the Memorandum of Understanding,’’ the Labour leader said.
Earlier at the protest in Abuja, Wabba said workers built the Nigerian economy and their welfare and wellbeing must be paramount.
He said: “There is no way we can be described as tiny minority. We want to say that workers are very central to economic development. They are very central to the prosperity of any country and therefore we can not be described as the tiny minority.
“Nigerian workers are an asset and must be celebrated. Anywhere around the world where there is progress, workers are celebrated. Workers must be able to take care of their families, they must be able to feed well, they must be able to pay children’s school fees, but today most workers are unable feed three meals per day because the minimum wage of N18,000 is no longer enough to cater for their basic needs.”
The labour president lamented that most Nigerian workers should be able to take care of their families but, in reality, the reverse was the case as many of them are unable to eat three times per day.
“Workers create the wealth of any nation. If we create the wealth of Nigeria then we must partake in the sharing of such wealth and therefore the welfare of workers must be paramount. That was why we said that this rally will take place at the length and breadth of the country.
“So workers must be able to take care of their family, send their children to school. But today, workers are not able to feed three times a day or send their children to school because minimum wage of N18, 000, is no longer sustainable and no longer realistic and cannot take care of worker’s needs. This is the reality.
“Therefore we have agreed on the negotiation table which took us up to one year negotiating. Workers have been patience and more considerate and we look at all issues and we agreed on the N30,000.”