As workers continue to await the outcome of their demand for a new minimum wage, a labour leader, Joe Ajaero, has again warned that government has no option than to pay the N30,000 minimum wage and then follow up with payment of arrears.
Ajaero, who is the President of the United Labour Congress, spoke at a public forum on labour in Lagos on Thursday.
He restated that a tripartite committee had considered the ability of government to pay the sum before the committee agreed on the sum.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that a tripartite committee was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 5, 2017 and the committee later agreed on N30, 000 as new minimum wage.
However, some state governors appear to have reneged on the agreement, saying that they can only afford to pay N22, 500 as minimum wage, an amount the labour movement rejected.
The development has put public sector workers on edge, prompting labour to resort to the strike option, although the Federal Government appear to be resolving the issues.
Analysts classify public sector workers in Nigeria among the least paid in the world, although Nigeria’s political office holders are among the highest paid in the world.
According to Ajaero, organized labour is demanding wage arrears because the minimum wage has been due since 2016.
He said that labour had resolved to fight for the new minimum wage even after the upcoming general election, saying that there would be no retreat or surrender until workers received the wage.
He said: “Labour will ask for two years arrears because even the N30,000 is less than N1,000 a day for a family of six. Minimum wage is a bench mark and some states can even pay higher.”
Ajaero said that time of reckoning had come for some governors, whom he said, had been taking so much but still found it difficult to pay workers what was due to them.
He said: “For any political leader who will rig election to stay in office, labour will ground such a state if the governor refuses to pay. We will disconnect electricity and fuel supply until in such states.’’
Ajaero advised President Muhammadu Buhari to ask questions on how some governors spent the intervention funds, rather than holding court with the governors after the wage committee had concluded its job.
The Head of the International Relations Department of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Uche Ekwe, said that it was regrettable that some governors were not willing to pay the new wage even when they were paying higher wages to scores of their aides.
Ekwe advised the president to be weary of the pranks of the governors because workers’ votes were crucial in the 2019 elections.
He said that the NLC would continue to educate and embark on programmes, aimed at improving workers’ productivity.