Nigerian workers threaten economic shutdown

The Senate, the upper chamber, is pushing ahead with a constitutional amendment whereby every state would have the right to set its own minimum wage

Nigerian workers threaten economic shutdown

World Bulletin/News Desk

Nigerian workers are threatening to shut down the national economy if parliament pushes through a constitutional amendment to remove the minimum wage from exclusive list and place it under concurrent list.

Items on exclusive list are within the confines of the central government and cannot be tampered with by state governments, whose functions are listed on concurrent lists.

“All labor laws are federal laws and so we will resist, by all means, including shutting the economy industrial action, any attempt to take the minimum wage issue off the exclusive list,” Issa Aremu, deputy president of the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), one of the country’s two labor centers, told Anadolu Agency.

Nigeria passed a National Minimum Wage Act in February 2011. It was sponsored by President Goodluck Jonathan who was desperate for the support of the workers’ movement to outsmart those against his election the same year.

The law pegs minimum wage (entrance level) at N18,000 (US$112.5) a month, sparking protest from state governments which insisted it was against principles of federalism that Nigeria practices.

The Senate, the upper chamber, is pushing ahead with a constitutional amendment whereby the minimum wage would be removed from the exclusive to the concurrent list.

Aremu accused Nigeria's 36 state governments of being the masquerades behind the “unpopular” amendment which he dismissed as “reactionary, anti-progress and stands rejected by the labor.”

State governments say Nigeria is a federal country where states should have autonomy over who and how they hire or fire and how they manage their resources.

If the amendment is approved, it would enable state assemblies - instead of the national parliament - to set minimum wage.

Workers consider this to be dangerous, given the reluctance of most of the states to pay the minimum wage as approved under the National Minimum Wage Act of 2011.

The House of Representatives - the lower chamber of parliament – is standing with the labor on the matter.

The two chambers will need to harmonize their positions before any amendment is passed.

ILO Convention Breach

Aremu said the states cannot be trusted to have powers over how much workers earn, adding that allowing each state to set its own minimum wage is against the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention.

Nigeria is a signatory of the ILO Convention, which mandates member countries to have a clearly defined national minimum wage.

"They can’t allow states to have own labor laws because they will abuse it and subject workers to intolerable hardship," the labor leader fears.

"The ILO Convention, to which Nigeria is signatory, recommends minimum wage. That is a convention ratified by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Labor laws are derived from such conventions."

Aremu maintained that countries, like the US, have minimum wage which is common to every state.

"They are called sovereign convention, and so cannot be stepped down to allow states to have power over such issue as the minimum wage. We are totally against it.”

He commended the House of Representatives for not considering any amendment to allow states to set own minimum wage because it would contravene the ILO Convention.

Dr. Ayuba Wabba, president of the powerful Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), had accused the upper chamber of tinkering with the provisions of the constitution amendment in contravention of the ILO convention.

“Organized labor would do everything within its power to mobilize Nigerian workers to resist such exploitative tendencies,” the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Wabba as saying.

“It is a call for chaos. The organized labor in its entirety will resist any attempt to remove minimum wage from the exclusive list."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Ağustos 2013, 13:48