State chapter leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are being elected nationwide this Thursday at state elective congresses of the labour movement.
The election is coming 11 weeks after Ayuba Wabba was re-elected unopposed as president of the Congress along with 16 other members of the National Administrative Council (NAC) for a term of four years. The other labour leaders were also returned unopposed at the February 6 elections.
With President Muhammadu Buhari signing the new national minimum wage of N30,000 into law on April 18, the labour leaders to be elected in the states are expected to fight for immediate implementation of the new take home pay for workers. At some of the centres where the elections are taking place in the states the delegates say the Congress at this crucial time needs leaders who will not compromise the interest of workers.
It will be recalled that implementation of the former minimum wage of N18,000 was a huge challenge in the states with labour eventually consenting to different payment templates proposed and enforced by most of the state governments. The choice for labour was between the compromised templates and mass retrenchment of workers following claims by the state governors that they could not pay the N18,000 minimum wage.
The state governors were also opposed to the N30,000 minimum wage during negotiations with labour on the tripartite committee chaired by former Head of Service, Ama Pepple. While signing the new national minimum wage into law, President Buhari said he wished the workers the best of luck in apparent reference to the implementation at the state level. The new wage however takes effect from April 18 which was the day it was signed into law. The Federal Government is considering several options to make more money available to the state governors to be able to pay the N30,000 minimum wage including the controversial proposal to hike the five percent Value Added Tax (VAT) in the country.
As at the time of this report, the politicking ahead of the NLC elections in most of the states was still ongoing but it is expected that some of the leaders will be returned unopposed like the national leadership. In Rivers State however, there are concerns over a retired labour leader who reportedly wants to return as chapter chairman.
Similar elections by NLC in 2015 ended up in crisis at the national and state levels with parallel congresses electing two sets of leaders. The two factions were loyal to Ayuba Wabba of the Medical and Health Workers Union who defeated Joe Ajero of the Nigeria Union of Electricity Employees by 1,695 to 1,140 votes to win the NLC presidency.
The 2015 national delegates election which ended in a fiasco was rescheduled for another date under heavy security presence. Ajero who led a faction of the Congress after the disputed elections formally broken away from the NLC on December 18, 2016 to form the country’s third labour centre known as the United Labour Congress (ULC). The second labour centre is the Trade Union Congress (TUC) which was inaugurated after the monopoly enjoyed by NLC was broken in 2005 with democratisation of the country’s labour union laws that allowed registration of other labour centres.
The NLC however still remains the major umbrella organisation for trade unions in Nigeria. It was founded in 1978 following a merger of four different organisations, namely the Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC), Labour Unity Front (LUF), United Labour Congress (ULC) and Nigeria Workers Council (NWC). The TUC and now ULC have returned to their pioneer status as major labour centres in the country.
The first time the three labour centres, namely NLC, TUC and ULC worked together after the 2015 disputed NLC elections was from September 2018 to push for the new national minimum wage