Constitution Amendment: NLC Condemns Removal Of Wages From Exclusive List

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has condemned the decision of the National Assembly to move wages from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List in the on-going fourth amendment exercise to the 1999 Constitution, saying it will encourage exploitation of workers.

The Congress, in a statement by its General Secretary Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson has therefore convened a meeting of the National Executive Council for October 27 to mobilize workers for further action.

“We at the Congress see the removal of wages from the Exclusive List as an act of treachery masterminded by conservative governors and their cohorts in the NASS which will do the polity no good.

“We wish to state in no uncertain terms that the Congress will mobilize its members to resist this move to scrap the NMW. We recall that last year our national campaign and mobilization on this subject matter was suspended at the instance of the leadership of the Senate which promised to revisit the issue now that they are better informed.

“We recall paying tribute to the House of Representatives, which in its wisdom did not contemplate removing Wages from the Exclusive List. It is also worth recalling that the just concluded National Conference retained Wages on the Exclusive List in deference to the logic of the argument for the necessity of maintaining wages on the Exclusive List.

“We have generated and circulated enough literature on this subject matter and we are completely at a loss as to the rationale for this turn-around. We advise the NASS to hearken to the voice of reason and the voice of the people by urgently retracing their steps because the consequences of their action could be dire for the nation.

“We have explained as often as necessary that the basic rationale for the fixing of a minimum wage is to ensure that employees, particularly the unorganised and unskilled, are not exploited by their employers to the extent that their pay becomes so low that it creates a pool of the working poor. ‘’Minimum wage laws are in force in approximately 90 percent of the countries of the world today. Why would Nigeria leave this group for the negative 10 percent?

“One of the implications of this amendment is the jettisoning by the NASS of the concept of a national minimum wage as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (item 34 of the Second Schedule). What this means is that every individual employer will determine it’s minimum wage. This is extremely retrogressive and dangerous.

“The other implication is that it will turn the wage determination process in states into a legislative exercise instead of the universal best practice model of collective bargaining as enshrined in the ILO Convention on Collective Bargaining and Convention on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.”

“In light of the foregoing, the Congress believes the removal is a deliberate and calculated attempt to move us from the working poor to the slave-poor. We also believe it is a conscious ploy by some people to truncate the on-going electioneering process.

“An emergency NEC has been convened for Monday, October 27, to mobilize workers for further action. We appeal to the Nigerian people to show understanding in the event of fall-outs from our proposed action,” the NLC statement read.

The Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha however said yesterday, that the report of the Constitution Review Committee adopted by the National Assembly did not remove labour from the exclusive legislative list.

A statement by Ihedioha said that the Senate had earlier put labour on the concurrent list “but the House retained it in the exclusive list.”

“During the harmonisation of the reports from the two chambers, the Conference Committee adopted the House version and retained labour on the exclusive List.

“Both Senate and the House of Representatives have now adopted the Conference Committee report which retained labour on the exclusive legislative list.

“We are at a loss as to where the false and misleading information on this matter emanated from,” Ihedioha said.

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