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Minimum wage: Labour insists on N250,000, awaits Tinubu’s verdict.

11th June 2024

Labour

Organised Labour has insisted on its N250,000 new minimum wage proposal, stating it would not negotiate what it described as ‘starvation wage.’

The Assistant General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress,  Chris Onyeka, said labour would not accept the latest offer of ₦62,000 and the ₦100,000 proposal made by some individuals and economists.

This was as the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said the unionists were waiting on President Bola Tinubu to consider labour’s offer.

Ajaero said this in an interview with journalists on Monday at the ongoing International Labour Conference taking place in Geneva, Switzerland.

On Monday, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation disclosed that the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage had submitted its report.

Last Friday, the tripartite committee concluded its meetings with the Federal Government and the Organised Private Sector.

While the government and the OPS agreed on N62,000, labour on the other hand demanded N250,000.

However, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, in a statement, said any minimum wage higher than N60,000 was not sustainable.

In a statement on Monday, the Director, Information and Public Relations, OSGF, Segun Imohiosen, said the committee report would be presented to the President when the organised labour leaders return from Switzerland.

“The Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage has concluded its assignment and submitted its report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Monday, June 10, 2024.

“A formal presentation of the report will be made to Mr President for appropriate action when the leadership of Organised Labour as well as representatives of the government and the Organised Private Sector, who are presently in Geneva, Switzerland, for the ongoing International Labour Organisation  Conference, return to the country.’’

The SGF thanked the chairman of the committee, Bukar Aji, and members for their commitment and sacrifices.

Speaking on the minimum wage negotiation on ‘Morning Brief’, a Channels Television programme, on Monday, the NLC Assistant General Secretary, Onyeka said, “Our position is very clear, we have never considered accepting ₦62,000 or any other wage that we know is below what Nigerian workers can take home. We will not negotiate a starvation wage.”

Speaking further, the NLC scribe added, “We have never contemplated ₦100,000 let alone of ₦62,000. We are still at ₦250,000; that is where we are, and that is what we considered enough concession to the government and the other social partners in this particular situation.

“We are not just driven by frivolities but also by the realities of the marketplace—the realities of things we buy every day: bags of rice, yam, garri, and all of that.”

Onyeka said the one-week ultimatum given to the Federal Government since the suspension of the strike would expire by midnight on Tuesday.

He said that should the Federal Government and the National Assembly fail to act on the demands of workers by today, the  NLC and TUC would meet to decide on the resumption of the nationwide industrial action.

“The Federal Government and the National Assembly have the call now. It is not our call. Our demand is there for the government to look at and send an executive bill to the National Assembly and for the National Assembly to look at what we have demanded, the various facts of the law, and then come up with a national minimum act that meets our demands.

“If that does not meet our demand, we have given the federal government one-week notice to look at the issues and that one week expires tomorrow (today).  If, after tomorrow (today), we have not seen any tangible response from the government, the organs of the organized labour will meet to decide what to do next,’’ he warned.

Addressing journalists in Geneva on Monday, Ajaero clarified that the submission of N62,000 as proposed by the government and the organised employers’ body did not translate to labour accepting N62,000 as the new minimum wage.

He explained that labour could not embark on strike because the President had yet to communicate his decision on the figures presented by the tripartite committee.

He said, “The tripartite committee submitted two figures to the President. The government and employers proposed N62,000 while labour proposed N250,000. We are waiting for the decision of the President. Our National Executive Council will deliberate on the new figure when it is out.

“We cannot declare strike now because the figures are with the President. We will wait for the President’s decision. During the tenure of the immediate past President (Muhammadu Buhari), the figure that was proposed to him was N27,000 by the tripartite committee but he increased it to N30,000.

“We are hopeful that this President will do the right thing. The President had noted that the difference between N62,000 and N250,000 is a wide gulf.”

The NLC president also berated state governors under the umbrella body of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for rejecting the N62,000 minimum wage proposal.

He said, “How can any governor say he cannot pay? They cannot also be calling for the decentralization of the minimum wage.

“Are their wages decentralised? Governors whose states are not contributing a dime to the national purse and who generate pitiable Internally Generated Revenue are collecting the same amount as governors whose states are generating billions of dollars into the FAAC (Federation Account Allocation Committee). They should decentralise their salaries and emoluments first.

“So, where is the governor of Edo state, Godwin Obaseki, getting his money from? He is paying N70,000 minimum wage. This is the type of governor that should be emulated and not the lazy ones.”

Also speaking in an interview with Arise News on Monday, the head of the department of information for the NLC, Benson Upah, argued that the government’s financial mismanagement and wasteful practices were to blame for the economic difficulties in the country.

He said, “In our estimation, the issues do not lie with wages but the government’s profligacy and an assumption that is pertinently criminal, that some people should live well and the majority should live hideously poor. Such reasoning is unfair. It is undemocratic and goes against the grain of democracy and civilisation.”

Upah noted that the joint National Executive Council meeting of the Trade Union Congress and the Nigeria Labour Congress had anticipated possible government bad faith in the negotiation process but chose to pause the strike action in good faith.

“We acted in good faith by pausing this strike action. It was not as if we didn’t know that this could arise. At the joint National Executive Council meeting of the TUC and NLC, somebody asked this question, what if the government acted malafide – in bad faith?

‘’And the response was that our troops, our resources, our reaction time, our good intentions are intact. But clearly, the government is not serious,’’ he submitted.

He also accused certain state governors of undermining the ongoing minimum wage negotiations.

Upah accused them of mischief, saying, “The governors driving this mischief, we know them. You can count them on your five fingers. These governors do not mean well. They’re throwing spanners in the works.

‘’While the Federal Government has even moved up slightly to N62,000, they are saying they can’t even pay the 60,000 that was initially proposed.

‘’It’s an act of mischief and the numbers are against them. The states are very rich now. The issue is not about Labour being difficult. Labour is talking about something practical, testable and reasonable,’’ he insisted.

On the next step, the NLC spokesman noted, “The appropriate organs of labour will meet and take an appropriate decision. On our part, we are ready for negotiations. Negotiations in good faith.”



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