Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has called on labour unions not to oppose plans by the National Assembly to decentralize determination of minimum wage.
He gave the advice while inaugurating the South West Zonal office of the National Pensions Commission (NPC) in Ikeja. The governor stated that the decentralization of minimum wage is the best for true federalism, saying states could not be compelled to pay a wage fixed by the Federal Government in a democracy.
The that workers, under the aegis of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday protested at the Senate over the latter`s plans to remove minimum wage from the exclusive list.
Gov. Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, who led the protest, claimed the plan amounted to politicisation of workers` compensation as it would empower the state governments to pay workers just anything. But Fashola said ‘’I think the time has come for us to speak openly and honestly for what we believe in. We may disagree but we should try and agree at the end of the day.
“The labour union has a position on the decentralization of the minimum wage, perhaps they would listen to another position which takes us ultimately. For us it is not who makes the law that matters, it is whether or not the Nigerian worker gets a fair pay for a hard job .Who makes the law, who has the responsibility to manage it only detracts us from the main issue.
“And I If we are decentralizing the management of pensions and it is making sense, why can’t we decentralize payment of wages? This is a federation. Payment of wages shouldn`t be imposed on the states ’’he said.
Fashola urged labour to dialogue with the appropriate government authorities on reaching an agreement on the issue, saying incessant protests were inimical to development. Also speaking at the occasion, Gov Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State said having a national minimum wage fixed by the central government should not stop the states from fixing their own in a democracy.
He argued that imposition of a minimum wage was not in the interest of labour as it might discourage states willing to reward workers more from doing so. “If we are truly a federal entity, states should also have a minimum wage at the state level rather than the imposed minimum wage.
“I remember that at the early stage of our independence, workers in the Western Regio left the federal public service to work in the state public service because the salaries were higher. It is for us to return to that period for us to strengthen our democracy“, he said. He described the Contributory Pension Scheme as the best thing to have happened to the welfare of workers in the country, saying it was structured to guarantee pensioners security.
The governor said Ekiti had signed the Pension Act and had gone ahead to establish a pension commission, saying the state would transit to the contributory before the end of the year.In his remarks, Gov Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State urged the National Assembly to expedite action on the amendment of the Pension Act to address some of its challenges.
He attributed the N13billionpensions arrears his administration had inherited to the imperfections of the old scheme, expressing the optimism that transition to the new scheme would ensure pensioners were paid as and when due.
Earlier,Ms Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, Acting Director-General, NPC ,said the new South-West Zonal office would facilitate the efficient management of workers’ pensions by the commission.
“Those are things we will have a very healthy and robust debates about but it no reason to shut down the government .This is where we must show the maturity in our democracy. We will have protests, we will have disagreements but we will find an answer .So let us go back to the debates that we had. Why should we have minimum wage for white collar workers?