Labour dumps negotiation over FG’s N48,000 proposal for minimum wage

 


The Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress on Wednesday dumped the minimum wage negotiation after the Federal Government offered to pay N48,000, a figure far below the N615,00 the unions were demanding as the new national minimum wage.


After abandoning the session, the furious labour leaders summoned an emergency press conference where they vented their displeasure with the offer, describing it as ‘an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerian workers.’


This was the second time in two weeks that the negotiation had run into trouble. The last session, held on April 29, deadlocked after organised labour insisted on N615,000 minimum wage.


The Federal Government disagreed with labour’s demand, which it deemed unreasonable.


However, the National President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, explained that the amount was arrived at after analysing the current economic situation and the needs of an average Nigerian family of six.


Rationalising the N615,000 demand, the labour leader stated, “Living wage is such that will, at least, keep you alive. It is not a wage that will make you poorer and poorer. It is not a wage that will make you borrow to go to work. It is not a wage that will lead you to be in the hospital every day because of malnutrition. For that living wage, we have tried to look at N615,000.

“Let me give you a breakdown of how we arrived at that figure. We have housing and accommodation of N40,000. We asked for electricity of N20,000 — of course, that was before the current tariff increase. Nobody can spend this amount currently. We have a utility that is about N10,000. We looked at kerosene and gas, that is about N25,000 to N35,000.


“We looked at food for a family of six. That is about N9,000 in a day. For 30 days, that is about N270,000. Look at medical. With the N50,000 provided, there will be no surgery or whatever.


“For clothing, we looked at N20,000. For education, N50,000. I don’t know about those who tried to put their children in private schools, they will not be able to cope with this amount. We also have sanitation of N10,000.


“I think where we have another bulk of the money is transportation. This is because the workers stay on the fringes and because of the cost of petrol, which amounted to N110,000.


“That brought the whole living wage to N615,000, and I want anyone to subject this to further investigation and find out whether there will be any savings when you pay somebody at this rate,’’ the NLC president explained.


But speaking at the press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, hours after the stalemate, Ajaero disclosed that, in contrast to the N48,000 offer made by the Federal Government, the organised private sector proposed an initial offer of N54,000.


He blamed the government and the OPS for the breakdown in negotiation, saying, “Despite earnest efforts to reach an equitable agreement, the less than reasonable action of the government and the organised private sector has led to a breakdown in negotiations.”

He further said, “The Government’s proposal of a paltry N48,000 as the minimum wage not only insults the sensibilities of Nigerian workers but also falls significantly short of meeting our needs and aspirations.


“Though it is worth noting that even the least paid workers in the private sector receive N78,000 as clearly stated by the OPS, highlighting the stark disparity between the proposed minimum wage and prevailing standards further demonstrating the unwillingness of employers and the government to faithfully negotiate a fair national minimum wage for workers in Nigeria.’’


He accused the government of failing to provide data to support its offer, noting that this undermined the credibility of the negotiation.


“Furthermore, the government’s failure to provide substantiated data to support their offer exacerbates the situation. This lack of transparency and good faith undermines the credibility of the negotiation process and erodes trust between the parties involved.


“As representatives of Nigerian workers, we cannot in good conscience accept a wage proposal that would result in a reduction in income for federal-level workers who are already receiving N30,000 as mandated by law, augmented by Buhari’s (former President Muhammadu Buhari) 40 per cent peculiar allowance (N12,000) and the N35,000 wage award, totalling N77,000 only.


“Such a regressive step would undermine the economic well-being of workers and their families and is unacceptable in a national minimum wage fixing process.”


Labour justifies action


In conclusion, Ajaero noted that Labour had to walk out of the negotiation, but noted that the unions remained committed to fighting for the rights and interests of Nigerian workers.


“In the light of these developments, and to prevent the negotiation of a wage deduction, the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress have decided to walk out of the negotiation process.


“We remain committed to advocating for the rights and interests of Nigerian workers and will continue to engage in reasonable dialogue with the government if they show serious commitment to find a fair and sustainable resolution to this impasse,” he said.


He also called on the government to reconsider its position and come to the negotiation table with ‘clear hands that reflect the true value of the contributions made by Nigerian workers to the nation’s development and the objective socioeconomic realities that confront not just Nigerian workers but Nigerians today as a result of the policies of the Federal Government.’


He urged the government to work alongside Labour to finalise the proposed N615,000 minimum wage.


“Together, in a reasonable dialogue, we can work to give Nigerian workers a N615,000 National Minimum Wage as we proposed based on evidence and data.


“This will be in keeping with the pledge of the President, His Excellency, Senator Bola Tinubu’s pledge to ensure a living wage for Nigerian workers,” he submitted.

The Presidency could not be reached for comment on the labour leader’s action. Calls to the presidential spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, were not returned when this report was filed.


Also, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, had not responded to telephone calls by one of our correspondents as of the time this report was sent.

President Tinubu, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, inaugurated the 37-member Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage on January 30, 2024, to develop a new minimum wage ahead of the expiration of the current N30,000 wage on April 18.


The committee is chaired by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Goni Aji.


The panel, whose membership includes federal and state governments, the private sector, and Organised Labour, will recommend a new national minimum wage for the country.


During the panel’s inauguration, Shettima urged the members to “speedily” reach a resolution and submit their reports early.


“This timely submission is crucial to ensure the emergence of a new minimum wage,” Shettima said.

Furthering its assignment, a zonal public hearing was held simultaneously on March 7 in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja.


The NLC and the TUC in different states proposed various figures as a living wage, referencing the current economic crunch and the high living costs.


In their different proposals on the minimum wage, the NLC members in the South-West states demanded N794,000 as the TUC suggested N447,000.


At the North-Central zonal hearing in Abuja, the workers demanded N709,000 as the new national minimum wage, while their counterparts in the South-South clamoured for N850,000.


In the North-West, N485,000 was proposed, while the South-East stakeholders demanded N540,000 minimum wage.


The Organised Labour would later recommend N615,000 as a living wage.


Following the walkout by the Organised Labour, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association has urged the labour leaders to return to the negotiating table.

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