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    Govt to Labour: don’t go on strike over minimum wage bill

    The Federal Government on Tuesday urged organised labour not to embark on strike because of the minimum wage bill before the National Assembly.

    The government said some measures it had taken since 2015 were geared towards the welfare of workers nationwide.

    It said the decision on the minimum wage law, tax exemption and preservation of public service jobs were in the interest of workers.

    President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige stated this during the opening session of the 2021 National Advisory Council in Abuja and Owerri, Imo State..

    Buhari was represented virtually at the Abuja event by Vice-President Yemi Osibajo.

    The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had on March 10 embarked on a nationwide protest over the minimum wage bill, which seeks to remove the minimum wage from the Exclusive List to the concurrent list.

    The bill passed the second reading in the House of Representatives on February 23.

    Should the bill become law, the Federal Government will not have exclusive jurisdiction to determine the national minimum wage. The implication is that states will have the power to determine their minimum wages.

    The sponsor of the bill, Garba Mohammed, said the bill would empower both the federal and state governments to freely negotiate minimum wage “with their workers in line with our federalism.”

    But, at the advisory council meeting in Owerri, Ngige said much as the Federal Government supported labour on the bill, it should not embark on strike because of it.

    He also reiterated government’s commitment to stemming the negative effects of the global economic crisis on employment by strengthening the machinery of tripartite and social dialogue.

    In Abuja, Buhari highlighted his administration’s efforts to improve workers welfare. He commended them and other social partners for their cooperation and understanding in the resolution of labour issues.

    The President said in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity in the Office of the Vice-President, Mr Laolu Akande, that ”workers also showed understanding in their demands.”

    The statement reads in part: “Our government has always been and we remain resolutely committed to the welfare of workers. Indeed, one of our first actions in office was the massive bailout to states, the majority of which were owing workers’ salaries in many cases for between six and 12 months.

    “As Federal Government, we ensured that despite two recessions in six years, and severely dwindled national resources, no jobs were lost for this reason.

    “Indeed, we not only implemented a new national minimum wage but we also last year put forward legislation that ensured that minimum wage earners would pay no income tax.

    “We established the largest Social Investment Programme in Sub-Saharan Africa and we have since expanded many of its component programmes, including the Conditional Cash Transfers for the poor from 2.6 million households (13 million persons) to 7.2 million households (about 30 million persons) and COVID-19 Rapid Response for the Urban Poor which now has 4 million households (20 million persons).”

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