Senate may capture domestic workers for the new minimum wage

The new national minimum wage Bill transmitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday passed the crucial first and second reading on Thursday in the Senate.

This was as the upper chamber planned to accommodate domestic workers of politically exposed persons in the implementation of the new salary structure.

The Bill, entitled “Approval of a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers-amendment of the national minimum wage (amendment) Act, 2011” prescribed N27,000 flat rate as minimum wage.

The Senate suspended its rules to take the first and second reading of the Bill as was suggested by the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan.

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who presided, noted that the consideration of the new wage Bill was the first time the Senate read Executive Communication and suspended its standing rules to consider it.

Ekweremadu added that they would constitute ad-hoc committee to work with relevant stakeholders to produce acceptable report for the Senate to approve.

He noted that the Bill limited those to benefit from the new wage structure to places with not less than 25 workers.

He said that the implication is that domestic workers in places with less than 25 workers would be excluded.

He asked the ad-hoc committee to address the issue during its public hearing.

Ekweremadu who spoke on the second reading of the Bill said: “Let me congratulate the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and all those who have brought this to this point. I would also like to thank my Distinguished Colleagues for the speedy consideration of this Bill.

“This will be the first time the 8th Senate is reading an Executive Communication and suspending our rules to take a First and Second Reading and assigning the Bill to a Committee, all in one day. This shows how committed we are to this issue.

“I believe what we have said so far will suffice in guiding the Committee. Just to clarify: the new minimum wage brought to us is set at N27,000. There were news reports of N27,000 for state workers and N30,000 for the Federal Government workers, but this is a single national minimum wage of N27,000.

“Another issue of concern is whether this affects organisations and establishments employing less than 25 persons.

“If this does not affect these people; it means a whole number of people are left outside the minimum wage and that is not right. In most countries, the minimum wage applies to all workers, regardless of the number of people in an establishment.

“I believe that at the public hearing, we will be able to clarify and sort it all out. We must try our best to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.

“There is an argument about the ability of State Governments to pay. If they reduce their wage bill and other costs, they will be able to pay.

“I suggest that they look inward and collect more taxes. I am not advocating that they should increase taxes, but they should increase the drive to collect more taxes.”

Lawan in his lead debate in support of the Bill said that the proposed legislation is the work of the Federal and State Governments irrespective of political persuation.

He described the Bill as critical especially because it has to do with the welfare of workers in the country.

The Senate Leader informed that the N27,000 prescription as national minimum wage had already been agreed upon by stakeholders.

He said that the Bill should be given accelerated consideration and passed so that its implementation could begin in 2019.

The financial implications of the Bill, he said, would be worked out during the consideration of the 1019 budget.

The Yobe North senator noted that though the 27,000 minimum wage may not be what the workers need, but it is a step forward that could be improved in future.

The Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, who also spoke in favour of the Bill, described it’s as the most important Bill in the life of the 8th Senate.

Olujimi noted that though the 27,000 minimum wage may not be enough, it is an improvement on N18,000 minimum wage.

She, however, warned that the proposed new minimum wage should not be a political gimmick in an election year.

She said, “Most States have said that they cannot pay. The Federal Government should sit down with State Governments to work out how the new wage would be accommodated by State Governments.”

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