THE decision-making organs of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have finally given the leadership of Nigeria’s foremost trade union centre the go-ahead to pay the N30,000 new national minimum wage to its staff, National Record can authoritatively report.
Our correspondent gathered that decision to commence implementation of the new wage was taken at the meetings of NLC’s organs, the National Administrative Council (NAC), the Central Working Committee (CWC) and ratified at the National Executive Council which held last Friday, December 17, 2021, exactly 32 months after the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act came into effect, having been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 18, 2019.
Although the communiqué issued at the end of the NEC meeting, in which the NLC also announced its intention to embark on a nationwide protest in January and February 2022 in resistance against the federal government’s plan to totally remove subsidy on petrol, it was silent on the minimum wage decision.
National Record however gathered from reliable insiders that the three organs of Congress approved the main recommendation of the Establishment Committee of the NLC to commence the new wage implementation.
The Establishment Committee, which is being chaired by the President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade (Dr) Nasir Idris, our findings indicate, had recommended the implementation of the new wage for NLC staff since early this year, but the recommendation had been ignored on the claim of lack of financial resources to foot the wage bill.
In-house Union confirms NEC approval, but…
When contacted Tuesday morning, both the Chairperson and Secretary of the NCSU chapter to which NLC employees are affiliated confirmed hearing that the NEC had approved the new wage.
The union’s chairperson, Comrade Eustace James, when congratulated on the NEC approval for implementation, while accepting the congratulation however observed that implementation was yet to commence.
“They have not started implementing; the organs have really given approval but we are yet to receive payment. I know that the organs have approved, so we are waiting for this month’s salary, so until we are paid, we cannot say they have started implementing.
“You know, the National Assembly passed the minimum wage bill and the President signed it into law but there are some states yet to implement it, even some federal agencies. Earning it is what implementation translates to. We are hopeful that it may be implemented with the payment of this month’s salary.”
On her part, the union’s Secretary, Comrade Saratu, was categorical that the Congress has implemented the new wage.
“They have implemented it; the NAC, CWC and NEC, they have implemented it; they are on it now; they will pay us;” Comrade Saratu said.
For some of the staff who spoke to National Record on condition of anonymity, they are not assured by the ‘mere news of organ approval’ until payments commence.
“Let me tell you that we have been aware that the Establishment Committee had recommended payment over five months ago. We are also aware of the pressures of many of the national officers serving in the NAC who have advised the President [Comrade Wabba] to implement but when the issue got to the press, he [Wabba] got angry with everybody and refused to pay, as if the money will come from his pocket or as if we do not deserve to earn the new wage.
“He had kept on saying that he will implement at the end of the month. The end of the month will come and he will set another date until now. Until we receive, if we don’t receive, then the story remains;” one of the sources said.
Another source revealed that though staff have been told that implementation will commence this month, the issue of arrears of 32 months also remains a major concern, especially against the backdrop of the fact that the National Secretariat was proceeding on holidays by the close of work on Tuesday, December 21, 2021.
On the payment of arrears, our correspondent gathered that the NLC plans paying in two or three instalments to be liquidated by either January or February 2022, if implementation starts this December.
When called on his mobile phone, the General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, did not pick this reporters call. A text message sent, and delivered to his mobile was not responded to as at press time.
Calls to Comrade Wabba did not go through. National Record later gathered from a reliable source on the 10th Floor of the Labour House that Comrade Wabba had barred this reporter’s number from getting through to his mobile. According to the source, even text messages or Whatsapp messages from the reporter are usually blocked from all mobile numbers of the NLC President.
Minimum Wage Act criminalises non-payment of new wage regime
Unknown to many workers and trade union leaders, the non-implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act is an offence punishable with specified penalties.
Section 9 of the Act criminalises failure of employers’ compliance with the new wage regime, with penalties of a fine and the payment of all arrears.
Section 9, subsection 2 reads: “Any employer who fails to comply with subsection 1 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to pay – (a) a fine not exceeding 5% of the offender’s monthly wage; (b) all outstanding arrears of the workers’ wages; and (c) an additional penalty of not less than the prevailing Central Bank of Nigeria lending rate on the wages owed, for each month of a continuing violation, provided that the power to order payment on account of wages under subsection (2) shall not derogate from the right of the worker to recover wages due to him by any other proceeding in a court of competent jurisdiction.”
The act also states that an officer authorised by the Minister of Labour shall serve a notice of enforcement to employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and where they still do not comply, in part or in whole, the matter shall be referred to the National Industrial Court.
Will Nigerian workers and trade unions resort to litigation in order to force recalcitrant employers violating the Minimum Wage Act to comply?