New minimum wage won’t be ready in April — Labour

—Attacks Imo, Delta, Benue over non payment of wage award
–Urges FG to pay March, April wage award
–Laments exclusion of organised labour in review, implementation of Oronsaye’s report
— Carpets FG on unilateral hike in electricity tariffs

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA

THE Trade Union Congress TUC, of Nigeria, on Thursday frowned at the non completion of negotiations on a new minimum wage and urged the Federal Government to fastrack action on that.

The TUC President, Comrade Festus Osifo, who made the call while briefing journalists after the National Executive Council, NEC, of the labour movement, ruled out the possibility of having a new minimum wage in place before the end of May.

TUC, also lamented that some states in the Niger Delta region that collect huge sums of money from the Federation Account, have not paid neither the wage awards nor palliatives to their workers, accusing Delta, Imo, Benue as the worst culprits.

Besides, TUC, noted with dismay that the Federal Government has not paid federal workers the wage award for the months of March and April this year and called for the immediate payment of the wage award to cushion the economic hardship.

He said, “The NEC in session discussed the issues of minimum wage and that government has to do everything possible to ensure that this is fast tracked because the only way you can inflate your economy is when you empower the working class. The only way you can inflate your economy is when people have money to purchase goods in the supermarket, when people have money to go to the regular market to purchase items. If there is no money to purchase these items, if the purchasing power parity is relatively low, what is going to happen?

So, we demand that the committee orf minimum wage, should hasten their activities so that a new minimum wage will be put in place. This is the only way that the economy will be re inflated.”

Comrade Osifo also called on the review of obsolete labour laws in the country, noting that, ” for several years, we have been trying to review the labor law all attempt to get the ninth National Assembly to pass the new labor law did not materialized.”

Commenting on wage award, Osifo said, “Then also in the issue of wage award, the NEC in session also frowned on the fact that the last wage award that was paid to the federal workers was February 2024 and that of March and April that is just ending have not been paid.

“So we hereby call on government to immediately, release the payment of wage award for March 2024 and April 2024 and to ensure regular payments moving forward, so that at the end of April, when salary is coming in, the wage award is also paid until the new minimum wage is put in place as agreed in the communique of October 2 of 2023.”

Also speaking on the Stephen Orosaye’s report, the TUC lamented that there is no representation of the organised labour in the committee for the review or implementation of the report.

“We hereby call on government to inculcate members of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria into the committee that is currently reviewing or implementing the Orosaye’s report, because you cannot shave our hairs when we are not there. We will not accept any fallout that is going to impact on our members when they conclude without us. So we demand that we must be there to look at what the committee is doing and also make our recommendations and make our voices heard.”

Lamenting on the lukewarm attitude of some state governors in the payment of wage award and distributing palliatives to the workers, TUC said, “There is no gain saying the fact that today we are facing economic hardship and based on this at the federal level, we engaged the federal government as you are aware, from last year that culminated in the signing of the communique on October 2 of 2023.

“And after that communique was signed, we also empowered our respective state councils to follow up with their state government to ensure two things one, put in place palliative. Palliative is for the immediate, palliative is not a permanent solution to the economic downturn that we are facing today as a country but palliative could solve immediate challenge, but it will not be able to meet at the long run, palliative cannot solve our problems.

“So that is why we were also yearning for a sustainable solution that is robust. A solution that would meet the yearnings of the Nigeria workers and indeed the Nigerian masses, because that is why the governments are elected from the federal to the local government level.

“We collated report across the various states in the country. And in that report, we could see that some states have been doing literally well, in terms of payment of wage award, in terms of putting palliatives in place. And in terms of putting in place a more robust and a substantive solution to solving the issues that we have today as a country.

“And some of these states that are worthy to be mentioned are Borno, Oyo, Lagos, Kaduna , Rivers, Yobe, Bayelsa Ebonyi, and the Federal Capital Territory.

“But we have some states that have done literally nothing they have done next to nothing. Even some states in the Niger Delta that are receiving over 20 billion naira per month they have literally done nothing to solve the economic challenges of today and also put in place a sustainable solution for tomorrow.

“And top in that list is Benue. Benue state has done nothing for the workers. Benue state has done nothing for the masses of of the state. Literally nothing has been done in Benue. So, we hereby call the government of Benue to put in robust mechanisms to solve the economic challenges that our members and the masses are passing through in the state.

“And also the state of Anambra, we are a bit surprised because we felt if that state is being led by an economist, he should be able to put on his thinking cap, he should be able to put in place a sustainable solution that will appease the masses of that state. But Anambra also falls in this category.

“Then the state of Imo is another one that literally has not done anything to appease our members. The same thing to the state of Delta. Delta tops the list of states that collect fat allocation from the Federation Account. Delta is number one in that list, it is surprising to know that the Delta State governor is doing nothing to uplift the plight of workers in Delta. So we hereby call on him that as the state governor, he promised a lot when he was on electioneering campaign that the talk is over that this is the time to act.

“Also, Akwa Ibom , they have done a little but they should do much more because these are state with means these are states with huge amount of revenue. They should do much more. Then also the state of Kebbi and the state of Katsina. We strongly believe that what they are doing is piecemeal, and that they should up the ante.”

The TUC leadership also carpeted the Federal Government over its unilateral decision to increase electricity tariff without consultation with stakeholders.

According to Osifo, such decisions are not implemented in advanced climes. He said it is even more worrisome that most Nigerians are not metered, calling on the government to rescind implementation in the interest of the suffering masses.

TUC also decried the level of insecurity in the country, lamenting that farmers cannot go to farms for cultivation for fear of being killed.

He warned that unless government tackled the situation head on, the prices of food and other commodities would keep rising beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians.

Osifo said, “We held our NEC where we reflected on the recent increment in electricity tariffs, we consider this decision as being too hasty.

” There are provisions that ought to have been followed before you increase electricity tariff, there ought to be stakeholders engagement, but in this case it was not done.

“Today electricity tariffs are being increased when some people are still using estimated billing. We have expected that by now every single house in Nigeria should have pre-paid metre, we insist that there must be stakeholders engagement to arrive at a critical decision like this”.

On the inability of the Port Harcourt refinery to kick off operations by April as promised by the Federal Government, TUC said it was part of the reasons for the resurgence of fuel queues in parts of the country.

He urged government to hasten up and actualize it, so as to lessen the economic hardship in the country.

“Sometime last year TUC made a visit to Port Harcourt refinery and government told us that by April the refinery will start production, but till date nothing is working there. We urge government to do everything possible to make it operational.

“We call on the government to tame insecurity because farmers are no longer farming, we see what is happening in Benue and Jos. People need to go to farm to cultivate, that is what will reduce the price of goods and other commodities in our market.”

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