By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
A former official of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC and Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman has again berated Congress for predicting its protest against decentralization of minimum wage on deliberate distortion of facts.
Lukman in a statement issued Friday in Abuja noted that “the campaign for the retention of the minimum wage in the exclusive legislative list under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended, is being handled by the leadership of organised labour, especially Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) based on deliberate distortions of facts”.
According to him, one of the claims is that moving minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list in the 1999 Nigerian constitution will contravene provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, which Nigeria is a signatory.
“While it is true that ILO Convention No. 30 of 1928 Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery Recommendation provides the guiding principles for the determination of minimum wages in all countries, no where was it stipulated that the process should be the exclusive preserve of federal authorities. Anyone interested can confirm the details https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:R030.
“If anything, the Convention allows for flexibility for each country to apply the guiding principles to its circumstances through consultative processes that take into consideration all the interests in the country’s labour market. The guiding principle is ‘to ensure that each Member ratifying the Convention is in possession of the information necessary for a decision upon the application of minimum wage-fixing machinery, the wages actually paid and the arrangements, if any, for the regulation of wages should be ascertained in respect of any trade or part of trade to which employers or workers therein request the application of the machinery and furnish information which shows prima facie that no arrangements exist for the effective regulation of wages and that wages are exceptionally low.’
“Nowhere in the Convention is it provided that minimum wage-fixing is the exclusive responsibility of federal authorities”, he stated.
The PGF DG added that the current debate about whether states can make minimum wage laws is basically about correcting the distortion in terms of applying the principles of minimum wage fixing as provided in ILO Convention 30 of 1928.
“It is important we appeal to leadership of organised labour, especially NLC, to stop promoting false information”, he stated.
Lukman said the other distortion that needs to be corrected is that the proposal to transfer minimum wage to the concurrent legislative list is not to stop the payment of N30,000 minimum.
“Although, many state governments and private employers are having difficulty implementing the N30,000 minimum wage, we should separate the problems associated with implementing agreements from the bigger challenge of correcting wrong procedure used in fixing minimum wage in the country. Problems of implementing agreements can be addressed with reference to invoking provisions of Nigerian arbitration laws, which is what ILO Convention 30 of 1928 recommends. As a nation, we have arbitration law. Why is the leadership of organised labour not taking advantage of provisions of our laws to enforce implementation of minimum wage law?”, He queried.
He said it is important that all these distortions are corrected, adding that Nigeria’s democracy must be insulated from distortions and falsehood. “The struggles of Nigerian workers for a just and better Nigeria should not be oriented based on falsehood and distortions. The earlier NLC leadership retrace their steps and return to the path of truth and democratic engagement to win the support of Nigerians, including elected representatives, the better. Political bullying is antithetical to democracy and is counter productive to the struggles for decent wage!”, He stated.
Lukman said since Nigeria’s democracy is patterned after the United States of America, it should perhaps be the first reference.
“In US, minimum wage is set by US Labour Law and a range of state and local laws. As of January 2020, there were 29 states and D.C. with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. Almost 90% of US minimum wage workers are earning more than $7.25 per hour, which is the minimum wage at federal level in the US.
“The Federal, States and Counties make laws for minimum wage. Minimum wage for each level is negotiated. Different states are able to set their own minimum wages independent of the federal government. When the state and federal minimum wage differs the higher wage prevails. As of January 2018, there were 29 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. Washington, D.C, and New York City have the highest minimum wage at $15.00 per hour. By January 1, 2021, California has the highest state minimum wage at $14.00 per hour, which will be raised to $15 per hour starting January 1, 2022. The minimum wage in New Jersey is $12.00 an hour as of January 1, 2021, but will be raised by a dollar a year until 2024 when it will be $15. Massachusetts minimum wage is $13.50 per hour. A number of states have also in recent years enacted state preemption laws, which exclude local governments from setting their own minimum wage. As of 2017, state preemption laws for local minimum wages have been passed in 25 states”.
He said as much as every federal authority plays an important role in facilitating the process of fixing the minimum wage, it is never their exclusive legislative jurisdiction.
Lukman also advocated the revival of the National Labour Advisory Council NLAC to help resolve some major labour-related issues.
“How, as a nation, Nigeria arrived at the constitutional provision of assigning minimum wage under the exclusive legislative list is completely not based on the guiding principles provided under ILO Convention 30 of 1928.
“It is however necessary to recognise that there are legitimate fears expressed by organised labour in Nigeria on the potential that the process can be abused if our states are allowed to fix minimum wages through moving minimum wage to the concurrent legislative list. What is required to address such a problem is to revive the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), which normally has representation from labour, employers, and government. It used to serve as the tripartite body in Nigeria for the resolution of major labour challenges. As things are, NLAC is hardly existing.
“Part of what needs to be resolved is the issue of whether states are allowed to adopt minimum wages below the agreed federal minimum wage established by NLAC as adopted or approved by NEC? Or what minimum wage should apply to workers employed by private organisations whose operations cover many states? First, no state should be allowed to have minimum wage lower than the benchmark as provided in prototype bills adopted by NEC. Secondly, in the case of private employers operating in more than one state, the highest minimum wage should apply”, he stated.