Labour insists on living wage

The Organised Labour has refused to budge from its  N615,000 new minimum wage demand for workers in the country, as it has scheduled to resume negotiations with the Federal Government tomorrow.

Spokesperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Benson Upah, in a phone chat with Daily Sun, noted that while the labour centre considered the N615,000 a modest figure for minimum wage, it was not shutting off negotiations with the government on the issue.

He stressed that Labour was open to discussions once there was commitment from the social partners.

“But, we think N615,000, is a modest figure, given the galloping inflation currently at 33.7 percent, and climbing; the declining Naira, as well as other possibilities and impossibilities.

“We think it is important to note that we gave that figure before the government jerked up the electricity tariff by 250 percent. In light of the foregoing, N615,000 is a modest figure. But, of course, we are not closed to negotiations. We believe it is a modest figure. Nonetheless, we have not shut down our thoughts on going for negotiations,” Upah stated.

The first deputy president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Tommy Okon, said the TUC received a letter from the Federal Government to resume negotiations; a request they intend to honour.

Okon condemned the government’s offer of N48,000 as the new minimum wage without providing the underlying factors that led to the figure. He noted that Labour had presented the indices that led to N615,000, and is keen to see the government’s counter-offer to reach a mutually agreeable decision.

“Well, the Federal Government has written to us through the chairman of the committee, and that we are going to also reconsider. You know, in negotiation, it is expected. In whatever strategy that is adopted, it is also expected but it was very unusual for the government to offer N48,000 without giving us the breakdown, the variable they used to arrive at it, and that ignited our action. But, they have written to us, so we are likely meeting again on Tuesday, to look at that.

“N615,000 is our demand and the government will have to look at it because we have variables that we used to arrive at, so the government needs to look at it. The variables are variables to see what the government can offer, then we come to a logical conclusion.”

The Organised Labour on Wednesday stormed out of the minimum wage committee meeting with the Federal Government over the latter’s offer of N48,000 and N54,000 by the Organised Private Sector (OPS) as new minimum wage.

The workers’ bodies had expressed disappointment over the impasse reached during the negotiations, attributing it to the perceived lack of seriousness and sincerity on the part of the government to engage in meaningful discussions with the Nigerian workers.

Labour said the government’s proposal of a paltry N48,000 as the minimum wage did not only insult the sensibilities of Nigerian workers, but also fell significantly short of meeting its needs and aspirations.

Part of the statement it issued after the incident read: “In contrast, the Organised Private Sector (OPS) proposed an initial offer of N54,000, though it is worth noting that even the least paid workers in the private sector receives N78,000  per month as clearly stated by the OPS, highlighting the stark disparity between the proposed minimum wage and prevailing standards, further demonstrating the unwillingness of the employers and the government to faithfully negotiate a fair National Minimum Wage for workers in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the government’s failure to provide any 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 to a reduction in income for the federal-level workers who are already receiving N30,000 as mandated by law, augmented by Buhari’s 40 percent 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.”

In a prior statement by its President, Joe Ajaero, the NLC detailed a breakdown of the proposed N615,000 minimum wage, encompassing essential expenses such as housing, power, utilities, medical, and food. It included housing/accommodation costs at 40,000, electricity/power at 20,000, utility water at 10,000, kerosene/gas at 35,000, and food at 270,000 (9,000 daily for 30 days).

Others were: medical 50,000, clothing 20,000, education 50,000, sanitation 10,000, and transportation 110,000, resulting in a total of N615,000.

Meanwhile, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, has advised the Federal Government to be considerate while labour should be reasonable in determining minimum wage for workers.

He tasked both parties to ensure that the new minimum wage reflected the inflation rates and economic reality in the country.

Ndukuba stated this at the Cathedral Church of Advent Life Camp, Abuja while addressing journalists during his Episcopal Visit, to mark the 2024 day of Pentecost, yesterday.

The Day of Pentecost marks 50 days after Easter Day celebration and brings an end to the Easter season.

The cleric, while reacting to questions on the fruitless meeting between the Federal Government and the organised Labour a few days ago, called for dialogue in order to avoid future strikes by workers. He explained that salary increase has not really helped the situation of the average Nigerian worker considering inflation.

He called for consideration from the part of the government, and asked the NLC to be reasonable with its demands

“With the inflation and situation in the country, where families do not know what to eat and how to provide for their needs.

“All we are asking is for the NLC and TUC to be reasonable in their requests and demands while the government should be considerate.

“Somebody said it is minimum wage for maximum suffering. By this, it means, if we are demanding minimum wage that will make inflation get out of hand, we will end up in maximum suffering. What NLC, TUC are asking for, is for our good, and they need our support, but other aspects need to be put into consideration,” he said.



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