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States can pay higher salaries despite national minimum wage, says Labour Minister
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, says the idea behind the national minimum wage is not “about uniformity to hold back rich states or members of the private sector who have resources to pay higher from doing so”.
He said the motive is to ensure that there is “a national base below which the reward for labour in terms of wages would be inequable, indecent and slavish, hence illegal and unacceptable.”
Ngige stated this at the Public Hearing on minimum wage for the South South Zone in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
He said minimum wage being a Federal law as contained in section 34 of the Constitution, “means a price floor below which workers may not yield their labour.”
The Minister was responding to agitations by a section of the Labour Tripartite Stakeholders that a uniform Minimum Wage in the federation of Nigeria is at variance with the tenets of federalism.
“Above that floor, any state can pay as higher as its resource capacity accommodates. The intendment of the minimum wage therefore is not about uniformity to hold back rich states or members of the private sector who have resources to pay higher from doing so but to set a national base below which the reward for labour in terms of wages would be inequable, indecent and slavish, hence illegal and unacceptable,” Ngige said.
“The intendment is to set an irreducible minimum that can guarantee opportunities for work to earn a fair income; security in the workplace and social protection for workers and their families.”
Ngige emphasized that the life of workers and employers especially those in the private sector was intrinsically interwoven with the development of the nation, hence the importance the Federal government attached to interacting directly with workers all over the federation, so as to fully accommodate their aspirations for decent work in the new Minimum Wage.
He said, that was the reason the Federal Government embarked on nationwide public hearing to give workers a say in the wage fixing machinery of the country.
“Today, in the spirit of give and take, workers and employers, both private and public sectors are all seated side by side to give credence to the maxim that there is no employer without workers and no workers without employers,” Ngige said further.
“The aim is to ensure that a new Minimum Wage can assure the attainment of a social Protection Floor for Nigerian citizens in such a manner that workers have access to food, shelter and essential healthcare.”
He urged workers to utilize the opportunity provided by the public hearing taking place in all the geo-political zones to make necessary input into the work of the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Also speaking at the event, Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, commended the Federal Government for initiating the review of the minimum wage in order to uplift the living condition of the nation’s labour force, arguing that there was a great injustice in a nation where workers labour to sustain the nation only to go home in poverty.
Wike, however, disagreed ith the federal government fixing a minimum wage for the entire country, insisting that each state should be allowed to decide what minimum wage to pay its workers.