Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State on Tuesday in Abuja called for review of the new National Minimum Wage Law.
Oshiomhole made the call at the International Trade Union Congress Africa (ITUC-Africa) Regional Conference on Advancing Decent Work in Global Supply Chain in Africa.
“I think there is need to revisit some of the assumptions that informed the drafting of the Nigerian National Minimum Wage Law when it was enacted. I think it was at a time when big corporations dominated the economy.
“This is particularly true in the organised private sector where I come from; they had about 4000 workers and some were even bigger than that.
“So, the law simply looked at the informal sector characterised by people employing 20, 40, 50 less than 100 and the current minimum wage law allows for exemption enterprises that are employing less than 50.
“But now, our businesses are contracting. With the aid of technology, those employing more than 50 are increasingly fewer and those employing fewer than 50 are increasing.
“So, if the essence of the minimum wage is to provide protection for those who cannot organise, then that has been lost”, he said.
The governor urged workers unions to ensure the removal of the exemption clause while reviewing the national minimum wage.
“ We should look at removing the exemption clause of people who employ less than 50, because with 30 workers now and with modern technology, you can generate so much.
“So, the old assumption ‘that employ 50 and be a small player’ is no longer valid.
“If we are going to protect domestic workers, we have them in millions; you have to remove those assumptions of those below 50 in the law.
“If the movement cannot as it is today enforce N18, 000 minimum wage, then asking for higher numbers would appear laughable because if you cannot enforce the 18,000, how can you ask for more?”
He said the reality of the cost of living right at the moment suggested that those who were on N18, 000 would be said to be on survival wage.
Oshiomhole said some state governments do not have the revenue to pay workers salaries, adding that most of them were owing five to seven months arrears.
“Employers simply do not have the revenue to pay. They have over borrowed, and the naira has come under pressure and is going through devaluation and it is expressing itself in high cost of living which will put more pressure on workers.
“That is why most of them are calling for the abolition of the national minimum wage”, he said.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC, said the congress had been tackling the issue of non-payment of salaries in the states and there had been responses.
“Workers cannot continue to work if they are not paid, because they do not have means to go to work.
“We have asked those workers to withdraw their services, and that is working. Oyo state government signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pay workers; Nasarawa and Kogi are also doing same”, he said.
Mrs Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC-Africa, said the conference was convened to exert pressure on governments in Africa to ensure social protection and a living minimum wage for workers.
The conference is organised by the ITUC -Africa in collaboration the Nigeria Labour Congress.