PGF DG tasks Labour on minimum wage decentralisation

Aanya Igomu, Abuja

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The Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum, PGF, Mr. Salihu Lukman, has advised the organised labour to work towards the decentralisation of the minimum wage in Nigeria.

In a press statement, the PGF DG gave the advice in reaction to the recent declaration of the Nigeria Labour Congress to enforce a national strike action if the legislators continue to push to move the National Minimum wage from the Exclusive to the Concurrent Legislative List.

Mr. Lukman said that each state should be allowed to decide on its minimum wage based on its resources and productivity.

“A centralised framework for minimum wage legislation based on using the financial capacity of Federal Government to fix national minimum wage is hardly informed by economic indices of work output across the country and reflecting all sectors of the economy.

“Such a framework can only result in either shortchanging workers in high-revenue states/areas or over-stretching employers in low-revenue states/areas. Certainly, a review of wage-fixing theories would highlight these challenges and perhaps dangers,he said.

While identifying corruption as a problem that affects revenue growth in the public sector, Mr. Lulman called on Labour Unions to support the Federal and State Governments in fighting corruption.

It needs to be stated emphatically and unequivocally that although there is increased revenue in the country, which has resulted in improved financial profile of especially states and federal governments in the country, it has not favourably altered the structure of government finances.

“Some of the underlying factors would include factors of corruption, which the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to fighting and has been taking initiatives. While we may debate about the level of success, it should be a welcome development to have input from our leaders of non-governmental organisations such as the NLC in terms of what needs to be done at all levels in order to strengthen our fight against corruption and therefore increase the financial capability of all governments, especially at state levels to be able to accommodate increased wages for workers. In all these, beyond the lamentation against political leaders in the country on the issue of corruption, what are the specific demands of NLC on fighting corruption in the country given that it is a problem that have ravaged all sectors and all levels of society, including the labour movement” he said.

Mr. Lukman added that there are some indices that need to considered when determining renumeration such as the stability of the country’s source of revenue.

“Besides, given characteristically unstable international oil market, current levels of oil revenue are on the decline. It is to the credit of the Federal Government that non-oil revenue is increasing and in the case of many states, the capacity to mobilise internally generated revenue has increased.

“What all these suggest is that the nation should be able to assess these emerging realities and accordingly reconfigure wage determination process in recognition of revenue realities of the constituent units of our federal system and as well as ensuring that our national capacity to affirm the ability of private-sector employers to operate and therefore create more employment are not undermined. Therefore, to use the capacity of the Federal Government as determining variables for minimum wage fixing would be almost suicidal.

“Be that as it may, there are certainly challenges that need to be addressed. The challenges border on ensuring the availability of enough financial resources to guarantee higher levels of wages in the country, in the context of which issues of minimum wage can be correctly computed taking both production and cost of living indices into account” Lukman said.

He called on the labour leaders to strengthen their negotiation capacity and knowledge of the situation rather than look for any easy out by resorting to strike.

NLC should approach this based on a strategy of strengthening its own organisational capacity to negotiate improved conditions in the country and not look for easy approaches of centralised minimum wage fixing that are not sustainable, which include retention of a faulty constitutional provision such as the provision of item 34, Part 1 of Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

“It may be convenient for the leadership of labour, including the NLC, to retain current framework of determining minimum wage based on the capacity of federal government. Unfortunately, our union leaders have weakened themselves so much that their negotiating power is hardly oriented based on knowledgeable disposition about workers input in the production process at all levels in the country. The only weapon they seem to use so often to win concessions and agreements is strike. Blackmails and muscle flexing has become an important integral strategy to discredit perceived opponents” Lukman said.

 

Nnenna.O

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