The President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, has assured workers, especially those in the states and local government, the group will do everything to ensure that they are not short-changed in any way in the payment of the new national minimum wage.
Wabba who spoke in an interview in Abuja on Thursday also lashed out at the Chairman of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Chief Richard Egbulue, for deliberately stirring controversy that labour leaders were delaying the implementation of the minimum wage.
Wabba who was reacting to media reports quoting on the implementation of the minimum wage wondered how workers and their leaders who have been agitating for the implementation of the wages would be the ones delaying its implementation.
He said: “Despite the fact that the NLC and TUC are not directly driving the process of consequential adjustment, the process is ongoing. This morning, the report I read from the joint Public Service Negotiating Council is that they are meeting and if there is any stalemate, we will be informed and we will step in to assist them.
“I think they have also made the details of their discussions public. So, for anybody on that table to come out and say Labour is delaying the process is not saying the obvious.
“Workers are becoming more concerned and we are becoming concerned because a process must have an end for workers to benefit from the system. How can a worker or union who is at the receiving end be said to be delaying the process? For us, we wanted this money to be in the pocket of workers long before now.”
He said he got across to the unions and they have told him what the process is on and that they have not delayed the process in any way. According to him, what they want is to ensure that it is a win-win situation and that what is added is not just peanuts, but should take into consideration some of the challenges the workers are passing through in the last eight years, especially the cost of goods and services.
“Let the increase be commensurate with the challenges. That is what the Joint Councils is trying to do and if they have challenges, they will revert to us,”he said.
On arrears of the minimum wage will be paid to workers when the implementation finally commences, he said the effective date remained the one signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. “I am not aware of any change in that. What I am aware of is that it become effective the day it becomes a law and that is what we rely on,” Wabba said.
Reminded of the concerns from workers in the state as a result of the attitude of some of the stage governors, Wabba said: “From the perspective of labour, we will work assiduously with all our state councils and all our structures to make sure no worker is surcharged in any way.
“That is the commitment that we will all try to make. People would want to conserve resources, but I think that we must realise the centrality of the challenge the workers have passed through especially with the high cost of goods and services and the lack of purchasing power.”
He however described the youths of any nation as its assets, stressing that more opportunities should be created for them by the government to excel
He said: “Most times, we complain that we are not doing well because our youth population is on the high side. But we have seen many countries around the world that have population more than our own and are doing well. So, what I think is lacking is for us to plan the more.
“We know that our population growth is around three per cent. That means that we have to plan to accommodate the population increase. We should not lament and use that as an excuse.
“In fact, the population should be seen as an asset. I just came back from Japan where they are complaining of an aging population and are praying to have a youthful population. That is to tell you that it is the youthful population that will be able to make the difference.”