Labour threatens strike over planned removal of minimum wage from exclusive list

by James Sambo

Organised labour has threatened to embark on a strike action, if federal lawmakers carry on with the plan to remove the minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list of the 1999 Constitution.

The removal of minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list would give states of the federation the liberty to negotiate subjective wages and salaries with workers in their states.

President of the Senate, Senator David Mark was reported to have said that the removal of salaries and wages from the exclusive legislative list will be an agenda in the next phase of the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.

The Trade Union Congress, TUC, reacted to the proposed move on Saturday, 25 October, where it gave the Senate seven days ultimatum to clarify its position on the removal of Minimum Wages Laws from the Exclusive List.

In a communiqué jointly signed by its President, Bobboi Kaigama, and the National Secretary, Musa Lawal, the congress said the clarification was necessary before a follow-up action would commence.

According to the communiqué, the congress while acknowledging conflicting reports over the facts of the issue, pointed out  that the leadership of the National Assembly should clarify the true position of the amendment within one week.

“We say `NO’ to the minimum wage deregulation and we will resist the attempt with our capacity. Politics will be introduced into wage determination, in particular during elections, as was the case in the First Republic among Regional Governments.”

“If the minimum wage is removed from the exclusive list in the Constitution, states of the federation and individual employers would be empowered to decide on and set their own minimum wage independent of the national minimum wage structure.”

The communiqué also stated that the amendments would negate the spirit and practice of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 131, which Nigeria domesticated in the 1979 Constitution, while pointing out that minimum wage, which is a product of collective bargaining, should not be made a state law, because both the private and public sectors were involved.

The Congress said the mobilisation of its members has commenced, in spite of the one week ultimatum given to the lawmakers to clarify their position on the issue, stating that at the expiration of the one week notice, there would be follow-up action and after that nothing more. “We will not get back to them anymore. We want the Senate to be very explicit.”

The House of Representatives was, however, commended for voting to retain the minimum wage on the exclusive list in its amendment, as opposed to the Senate, which toed a different path.

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