The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, says the house would not do anything to hurt Nigerian workers as the Green Chamber will always work in tandem with the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
Speaking during a meeting with a delegation from the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Speaker called on the organised labour to use advocacy and lobbying as tools to register its disagreement with legislative decisions and actions.
He observed that those were the most potent tools deployed by labour in advanced democracies to score high points as against street protests or the casting of aspersions on members of the legislature.
Mr Gbajabiamila, stated that the dust being raised by the Minimum Wage Bill could be addressed successfully during the public hearing, where all stakeholders, including labour unions, would have the opportunity to kick against the draft legislation.
“The fact is that I’m a labour friendly Speaker, and I represent a labour friendly House.
“I want us to agree, first of all, that whatever was debated on the issue of minimum wage, the contributions by each member, were well-intended.
He added that the Minimum Wage Bill, being a constitutional amendment bill, will take a very long journey through the House, the public hearing, the Senate and the State Houses of Assembly before eventually making its way to the Presidency for possible assent by Mr President.
Gbajabiamila assured the delegation that at whatever point it became clear that the bill did not receive the support of the majority of lawmakers and Nigerians, it would “definitely” be stood down.
He appealed to the labour leadership to shelve its plan for further street protests or calling out workers to embark on industrial action.
The President of the NLC, Comerade Ayuba Wabba told the speaker that the NLC and the TUC leaderships started mobilising workers against the bill because they believed it would erode the over 40 years of progress made in minimum wage negotiations in the country.
Comerade Waba said if allowed to pass, the bill would ridicule Nigeria before the international community, being a signatory to Convention 26 of the International Labour Organisation on wage issues.
He maintained labour’s position that the problem was not the inability of states to pay the minimum wage, but a case of misplaced priorities.
The Sponsor of the bill, Alh Garba Datti, debunked the rumour that some state governors initiated the bill.