The Federal Government and organised labour in the country on Tuesday finally reached an agreement that the Presidency would send the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Bill to the National Assembly after three days of meetings.
The agreement came on a day that labour unions staged a nationwide protest over the non-transmission of the bill to the National Assembly by the Federal Government.
Unlike other meetings, the Tuesday meeting lasted for fewer hours.
However, President of Trade Union Congress, Kaigama Bobboi, warned that if the Federal Government reneged on the date it promised to transmit the bill to the National Assembly, labour would take action without any warning.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Nigige, who presided over the meeting, assured the labour leaders that the Federal Government would send the bill to the National Assembly on January 23, 2019 after members of the National Assembly must have resumed from their Yuletide recess.
He added that necessary meetings on the part of the Federal Government would be held next week to ensure the timeline was met.
The minister said, “As for the transmission of the executive bill to the National Assembly, the government will religiously implement all the processes that will enable us to transmit this bill within the stipulated time.
“We have a target time of January 23, 2019 and we hope that all things being equal, government will be able to do so. We will take all statutory meetings of the Federal Executive Council, National Economic Council and the National Council of State meetings to enable us to transmit the bill on the new national minimum wage. I thank the labour unions for their understanding and appeal to them that the threats should come down. Protests are no longer necessary.”
While thanking Ngige for his role on the issue, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, said workers had been patient with government for more than two years.
He added that after the submission of the report by the tripartite committee that deliberated on the minimum wage more that two months ago, it was expected that the Federal Government would have gone beyond the present stage of making effort to transmit a bill to the National Assembly.
He said, “We have finally been able to reach a clear understanding on the processes and timeline for this bill to be transmitted. We are committed to the process and hope that the timeline will be respected. We will put this across to our organs and give them all the details contained in the Memorandum of Understanding.
“You will recall that our demand is for the bill to be transmitted to the National Assembly. We want a firm commitment so that we don’t come round a cycle. We want the agreement to be documented and signed by government’s representatives. With that, we can follow up on the process.
“This thing has been on the table for more than two years and having submitted the report, we expect that the bill should have been submitted. The National Assembly will be back on January 16 from their recess so on or before January 23, the bill must have been transmitted.
“We know that the National Assembly members are desirous of making sure that Nigerian workers have decent wage, they will also be able to do the needful. We will shift our lobby to the National Assembly because once the bill is enacted; the money will be in the pocket of workers.
“Issues of industrial relations are always addressed at the negotiation table. We have been diligent in the whole process and workers have been patient, clearly we have carried them along, that is why whenever we want them to be around, they are always around. We are tired of stories and that is why we insisted on a timeline.”
Wabba, however, downplayed the agreement, saying that it was only one step taken out of many in making sure that a new minimum wage was paid.
“For us, it is a win-win situation but until the money is in our pocket, that is when we can talk of success. It is still work in progress and there are many more battles to fight. But once it is at the National Assembly, the half of the work is done. The next level is the implementation in the public and private sectors. But we are optimistic with the success of the bill at the National Assembly,” he said.