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Minimum Wage: Labour Slashes Demand To N500,000



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There are strong indications that organised Labour will push for N500,000 as the minimum wage as the zonal public hearing on the new wage structure begins on Thursday (today) in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, in an interview on Arise TV on February 11, had stated that if the ongoing inflation continued, organised labour might push for a new minimum wage of up to N1m for Nigerian workers.

However, a top official of the NLC, who confided in INSTANTNEWS on Thursday said based on proposals submitted by state chapters to the congress’ headquarters, the organised Labour might push for N500,000 at today’s meeting.

The public hearing on the new minimum wage, which will be held simultaneously in all six geopolitical zones, is expected to receive inputs from organised Labour, state governors, ministers, civil society groups, and the organised private sector on a new minimum wage reflective of the current economic realities and the workers’ aspirations.

INSTANTNEWSNAIJA learnt that the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, will chair the meeting in the North-East taking place in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Wale Edun, will preside over the South-West hearing taking place in Lagos.

President Bola Tinubu through his deputy, Kashim Shettima, on January 30, 2024, inaugurated a 37-member panel on the new minimum wage at the Council Chamber of the State House in Abuja.

With its membership cutting across the federal and state governments, the private sector, and labour, the panel is to recommend a new national minimum wage for the country on or before April 1 following the expiration of the current N30,000 minimum wage as provided by the law.

Though the tripartite committee met a few times in Abuja, it has yet to deliberate on any figure for the minimum wage.

However, the President of the NLC, Ajaero, in an interview on Arise TV on February 11, stated that if the ongoing inflation continued unabated, organised labour might push for a new minimum wage of up to N1m for Nigerian workers.

Ajaero said the demand from organised labour would be influenced by the cost of living which has been increasing since President Bola Tinubu assumed office, notably due to the removal of the fuel subsidy and other policies.

He said, “This N1m may be relevant if the value of the naira continues to depreciate; if the inflation continues unchecked because the demand of labour is equally dependent on what is happening in the society.

“You will remember that by the time we were contemplating N200,000 (as minimum wage), the exchange rate was about N800/N900 (to a dollar). As we talk today, the exchange rate is about N1,400 or even more.

“Those are the issues that determine the demand and it is equally affecting the cost of living. And we have always said that our demand will be based on the cost of living index. You will agree with me today that even a bag of rice is going for about N60,000/N70,000 or more.

“A bag of locally produced corn is about N56,000 or more. Foodstuff is getting out of reach, now are we going to get a minimum wage that will not be enough for transportation even for one week?’’

States’ proposals

However, speaking in an interview with Instantnews on Wednesday, a top official of the NLC said organised labour would insist on any amount slightly above N500,000 as minimum wage based on the analysis of proposals got from state chapters.

The official, who spoke in confidence because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the negotiation, explained that the cost-of-living analysis carried out in states was N900,000.

“In reality, what they gave us from the states when we deflate inconsistencies is over N500,000, as the cost of living of an average family of six to meet their basic needs, for an average family to survive.

“But we know that when NLC deflates it taking into consideration some of the things we think are padded, it will come to around slightly over N500,000,” he said.

He added, “ The NLC has done some scientific research on these parameters and the N30,000 that was paid. If you divide N30,000 in the last five years considering what that amount can purchase now, and how much a worker is to earn to buy the same thing, that’s nearly about N300,000 for that same amount.”

He, however, said the NLC’s demand would depend on the proposals submitted to its headquarters from state and local government chapters.

“So, the reality is that the NLC will not ask for a national minimum wage that would be less than what the people from all the local governments in Nigeria have given us.’’

The official confirmed that Ajaero would preside over the hearing in Yola, the capital of Adamawa state.

He said, “There will be a zonal public hearing on the National minimum wage in all six geopolitical zones simultaneously on Thursday (today).

“The president of Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, is the chairman of the meeting in the North-East taking place in Yola; there is also a meeting in the South-West, South-East, and South-South in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja, and other states.’’

According to him, the NLC state chapters do not negotiate the national minimum wage because they are not members of the tripartite committee.

Exclusive list

As the zonal public hearing takes off today, the state chapters of the Trade Union Congress in Ogun and Katsina have called for the minimum wage to be retained on the exclusive legislative list.

The Ogun State TUC Chairman, Akeem Lasisi, declined to speak on the amount being demanded as the minimum wage by his union, noting that the union’s national leadership would provide the direction in that regard.

However, he insisted that the government comply with the International Labour Organisation convention on labour remuneration.

Lasisi stated, “The national will give us the agreed amount but we are demanding that the clause in the last minimum wage that says ‘minimum wage affects only employers of labour with 50 workers should be removed.’

“It should affect everybody. Nigeria must comply with Convention 131 of the International Labour Organisation

“We are also demanding the National Minimum Wage be retained in the exclusive legislative list because a country must have a national minimum wage.

“I am submitting a memorandum at the public hearing. I want the national (TUC leadership) to give us the directive before I release it.’’
The Katsina State NLC Chairman, Husseini Hamisu, said the council would present at the public hearing.

“We have been invited and we shall be there. I will not be there but I am sending my representative I’m on my way to Abuja now for another official assignment,” he disclosed.

The state TUC chairman, Muntari Lawal, said he would make a presentation about “a befitting minimum wage for workers.”

He added, “We shall also suggest that the issue of national minimum wage be on the exclusive list.”

Speaking in the same tone, the Kwara State NLC Chairman, Muritala Olayinka, insisted that workers’ wage should be retained in the exclusive list and be determined by the Federal Government.

He disclosed that the North-Central meeting would be held in Abuja.

He argued, “There should be no difference in the salary paid to the federal and state workers because they buy food and other goods from the same market but allowances should vary from state to state.’’

The labour leader suggested that state governors ought to attend the zonal meeting of the minimum wage committee.

Warning against any delayed implementation of the envisaged new minimum wage, Olayinka stated, “We want the implementation of the minimum wage at the federal and the state levels to take off at the same time because we don’t want the state governments to complain that they don’t know what was discussed on the new minimum wage.’’

“We will also give the committee an amount of money that every category of workers would earn based on the economic reality in the country. The government should not tell us that there is no money when it comes to the turn of the workers.

“If the government has the funds to purchase vehicles of about N160m for each Senator and N130m for each member of the House of Representatives, it should not complain that there is no money when it comes to the turn of the workers,” Muritala cautioned.

Commenting on labour demand, the Sokoto State Commissioner for Information, Sambo Danchadi, said the state government had not decided whether the minimum wage should be moved to the concurrent list.

“If I have to give my personal opinion, I would have said move the minimum wage from the exclusive list to the concurrent list to allow governors of each state to determine the minimum wage of their workers.

“I’m sure if you look at it, the economy of this state cannot be compared to that of Lagos state or Rivers state. So, allowing every state to determine their wage will be a good thing,” he added.

For the Kano State Commissioner of Information, Baba Dantiye, the issue of whether the minimum wage should be moved from the exclusive list to the concurrent list has to be brought before the State Executive Council for deliberation.

“The issue has not come to the Executive Council for deliberation but as soon as a decision is taken certainly it will be made public,” Dantiye said.

The labour leaders in Kebbi, Bayelsa, Benue, Kano, Ekiti, Rivers and Delta, have also said they would be at the meeting to present their proposals.

The Kebbi state NLC Chairman, Murtala Usman, noted, “Yes, we have been contacted about the meeting. I am sure you know it is already segregated into zones and we in the North-West, ours is expected to take place in Kano.

“We will hold a meeting on who will present our demands at the meeting. I can assure you that we have gotten the invitation and already looking forward to the meeting,” he added.

The labour leaders in Benue said they would present their demands to the committee during its sitting today.

Chairmen of the state chapters of NLC and TUC, Terungwa Igbe and Gideon Akaa, spoke to The PUNCH in separate phone interviews.

But while the NLC proposed N300,000 minimum wage for workers, the TUC said N150,000 is a realistic demand.

“The meeting will be held in Abuja on Thursday; our demand as labour from Benue State is N300,000,” Igbe said.

On his part, the TUC chairman said, “We have forwarded our demands to our national headquarters in Abuja from Benue State; our demand is N150,000.

“We also demanded that the Federal Government should ensure that the exchange rate comes down and stabilize because if you demand N500,000 as minimum wage and the foreign exchange rate continues to rise, there is no sense in that.’’

Bayelsa TUC

The Bayelsa State TUC said its proposal to the minimum wage committee would not be different from the demands that the TUC representatives in the committee would make at the zonal meeting.

The state TUC chairman, Julius Laye, said, “We are invited. The zonal sitting will take place at Ibom Hall, IBB Way, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

“On the minimum wage, our people are still talking. They have not given us a final amount to demand. You know it’s a tripartite committee. So, for us, whatever our people who are also members of the committee table, is what we will support.”

Speaking with one of our correspondents, the Delta State TUC Chairman, Mathine Bolum said he would align with the demands made by the union’s national leadership.

His counterpart in the NLC, Goodluck Ofobruku, could not be reached for comment.

The TUC Chairman in Ekiti state, Sola Adigun, said that the labour centre in the states comprising the Southwest is strategizing for a common front.

Adigun said the TUC in the Southwest states were also making efforts to ensure that their positions at the meeting were not at variance with that of the national body of the labour union.

The TUC state chairman, however, assured that the labour body would not short-change its members in the bid to have a new national living wage

“By the grace of God, TUC Ekiti State under my leadership will be represented there to present our positions. However, like the governors are trying to synergise and come up with a common front, TUC in the Southwest wants to do likewise,” he stated.



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