The Director General of the Progressive Governors’Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman has told the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) the fate of the country cannot be negotiated and decided on the street.
He also lampooned leaders of Organised Labour over Wednesday’s protest at the National Assembly in Abuja against decentralising the minimum wage structure.
The protest also held nationwide in almost all the 36 State Assemblies.
But Lukman said the protests were needless, adding the action will not stop the National Assembly from attending to the bill.
The one-time NLC leader told reporters in Abuja labour leaders have misplaced their priority in the cause of agitation.
He argued their resort to protest and strikes have become outdated, insisting that labour leaders need to perfect negotiation skills.
According to him, the protest will not stop the National Assembly from considering bills that have to do with decentralising the minimum wage structure.
We are not saying they should not protest but this protest is needless. I can guarantee that it is not going to stop the process in the National Assembly.
“It is not also going to take away the issue. We need to work with them to develop this democracy and we can only do that if every constituent unit and citizens in those units can negotiate with the constituent governments and get results.
“As it is, we are all frustrated and that is what we should be addressing. This ‘we against them’ that labour is creating does not exist. We should be applying ourselves to resolving the problems of this democracy. There are fundamental problems bigger than we can imagine,” he said.
Lukman, who is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), argued “a structure that imposes the same minimum wage on a state as buoyant as Lagos and a state that is less buoyant like Zamfara or Yobe would impact negatively on productivity as workers in Lagos would feel shortchanged and therefore not give their total commitment to their job.”
He maintained if all states are able to pay the current N30, 000 minimum wage, the problems of Nigeria’s workforce would still remain unresolved.
He said: “I believe the future of this country is about negotiating these issues. I have respect for the NLC and TUC leadership but my advice to them is that they have better capacity in getting things done.
“In fact, this country is where it is because they are not really applying themselves in the right direction.
“The total number of membership of NLC, and I am being generous, is not more than 20, 000 for the whole country. I left NLC in 2006 and at that time, the total membership was about 4,000 but I am giving it to them because they have organised new sectors.
“There are new areas and so it is possible they have risen to 20,000. That is a very critical mass but they need to be guided and led properly.
“Assuming every government pays N30, 000, will that solve the problem of workers? So, nobody should deceive anybody. We all have a lot to do in this country. It is not about dancing on the streets but they should develop their capacity.
“I am saying they have lied by saying that people proposing that minimum wage and labour issues should be moved to the concurrent list that they do not want the National Minimum Wage.
“I heard the NLC President, which is a disappointment, arguing that when it is not negotiated at the national level, it means it is not a ‘National’ Minimum Wage.
“I am saying you can still negotiate it at the national level but the methodology is important because you are looking for a benchmark which everybody should be able to pay. It is not about coming to the federal government.”