MAY DAY FRACAS ON THE NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE: NECA URGES GOVERNMENT TO SET UP THE TRIPARTITE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE
Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has expressed its displeasure at the turn of event at the National Workers Day Celebration in Abuja with the disruption of the event by aggrieved workers allegedly due to the non-resolution of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) issue. The event was disrupted by workers who had barred government officials which included the leadership of the National Assembly and some Federal Ministers from delivering their prepared addresses.
Reacting to the incident, the Director General of NECA, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo noted that: “the unfortunate incident was needless and avoidable if Government had proactively done the needful”. He noted that there was indeed an understanding that the National Minimum Wage would be due for discussion after five years. In effect, the 2011 agreement, ordinarily, should be open for discussion in 2016. Government should not have waited for workers’ repeated clamour for discussions before acting in good faith”
Oshinowo averred that “there is a time-tested and enshrined procedure for the discussion of the National Minimum Wage, which is premised on the principle of Social Dialogue and Collective Bargaining among the Tripartite. This entails the setting up of a National Minimum Wage Committee comprising representatives of the Federal Government, led by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, State Governments, usually represented by three State Governors, Employers in the Private Sector under the aegis of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and Organised Labour as represented by NLC and TUC”.
According to NECA, “what Government must do, therefore, without delay is to immediately constitute the Committee and convene a meeting to start off the discussions on the NMW”.
On the sore issue of the timeliness of a review in view of the hard hitting economic recession, Oshinowo admonished that “the issue of procedure should be separated from the substance or subject. Hence, the imperative to respect procedure should take precedence over substance. It is the responsibility of the Committee to sort out the issue of desirability of review or sustenance of status quo in the event that timing for upward review is inappropriate”.
He further explained that “opening discussions on the National Minimum Wage does not automatically translate into an unsustainable wage increase. The beauty of Collective Bargaining is the opportunity to come to the table with constructive positions and submissions. The principle of reasonableness and superior arguments has always carried the day. Conclusions at the platform would not necessarily be for or against increase. It would be to examine the need for or against and justifications for whatever positions are canvassed”.
The position of NECA on NMW is that the time is not right for an increase. This is against the backdrop of the National economic depression and its attendant devastating effects on Organised Businesses, Mr. Oshinowo stated that: “the private sector Employers cannot afford a pay increase at this point in time. This is the position the employers will canvass at the National Minimum Wage Committee”. He added “the priority now should be for all stakeholders to join hands with government to deliver on inclusive growth that will ensure job security and job creation”.