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NLC Rejects Federal Govt’s N48,000 Minimum Wage Proposal | Citizen NewsNG

ByCitizen NewsNG

May 16, 2024

NLC Members Protesting 

 

 

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Wednesday abandoned minimum wage negotiations after the Federal Government of Nigeria proposed a N48,000 minimum wage, a figure far below the N615,000 demanded by the unions as the new national minimum wage.

Following their withdrawal, the labour leaders convened an emergency press conference, expressing their displeasure with the offer, which they described as “an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerian workers.”

This marks the second breakdown in negotiations within two weeks. The previous session, held on April 29, also ended in a deadlock as organized labour insisted on a N615,000 minimum wage, a demand the Federal Government deemed unreasonable, according to The Punch.

NLC National President Joe Ajaero explained that the N615,000 figure was derived from analyzing the current economic situation and the needs of an average Nigerian family of six.

“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,” Ajaero stated.

He provided a breakdown: “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,’’ he added.

At the press conference in Abuja following the stalemate, Ajaero revealed that, in contrast to the Federal Government of Nigeria’s N48,000 proposal, the organized private sector initially offered N54,000.

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

Ajaero emphasized that the N48,000 offer by the Federal Government “not only insults the sensibilities of Nigerian workers but also falls significantly short of meeting our needs and aspirations.”

He highlighted the disparity between the proposed minimum wage and prevailing standards in the private sector, noting that “even the least paid workers in the private sector receive N78,000 as clearly stated by the OPS.”

Also, he criticized the government for failing to provide data to support its offer, which he said undermined the credibility of the negotiation process.

“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,” he said.

Ajaero stressed that the unions could not accept a proposal that would result in a wage reduction for federal-level workers who are already receiving N30,000, augmented by former President Muhammadu Buhari’s 40 percent peculiar allowance (N12,000) and the N35,000 wage award, totaling N77,000.

“In light of these developments, and to prevent the negotiation of a wage deduction, the NLC and TUC 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 finding a fair and sustainable resolution to this impasse,” he concluded.

He called on the government to reconsider its position and return 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 finalize 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 added.

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. The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, also did not respond to telephone calls from 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, which includes members from federal and state governments, the private sector, and organized labour, is tasked with recommending a new national minimum wage for the country. Shettima urged the committee members to “speedily” reach a resolution and submit their reports early.

To further its assignment, a zonal public hearing was held simultaneously on March 7 in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja. The NLC and 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, while 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 clamored for N850,000. In the North-West, N485,000 was proposed, while South-East stakeholders demanded N540,000.

The Organised Labour later recommended N615,000 as a living wage. Following the walkout by the Organised Labour, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association urged the labour leaders to return to the negotiating table.

Speaking on behalf of the Organized Private Sector of Nigeria, the Director-General of NECA, Mr Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, described the walkout as unfortunate, noting that negotiations had not yet started.

“The action of Labour to walk out even when negotiations have not started, though within its rights to do so, is unfortunate. As seen globally, a major feature of all negotiations is for all parties to present their opening positions, which was done by all social partners,” he stated.

He urged Labour to reconsider its position and return to the negotiation table in the interest of their members and national development.

“The Organized Private Sector remains committed to the review of the current National Minimum Wage to a new one that is fair, sustainable and which takes due cognisance of our current economic situation,” he added.

Commenting on the breakdown in negotiations, Dr. Ikenna Nwosu, a facilitator with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, stated, “The government can do better than that because the economic indices and the inflation rate justify more increase than what it is offering. Inflation is at 33.6 percent, the highest in Nigerian history.”

An economist, Professor Akpan Ekpo, called the Federal Government of Nigeria’s N48,000 proposal ridiculous, given the current economic situation. He argued that the government should provide a package closer to the labour’s proposal.

On his part, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, emphasized the importance of ensuring a dignified living wage and noted that labour must monitor workers’ productivity to justify the increase.

“It is important that Nigerians live on a dignified living wage. You cannot be working, and you are not able to have income to take care of yourself for five days or a month. This is what is promoting corruption.

“This is what is promoting inequality. And the government must pay attention like every other place in the world, to lead by example to ensure that Nigerians earn a decent living wage and can contribute to development,” he said.

The National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, proposed a middle-of-the-road approach between the government and organised labour, noting that the government seemed uninterested in negotiating with Labour.

“Labour and the government have been discussing, but it looks like a monologue. It seems only one side is saying something, and the other side is not saying anything, at least to the knowledge of the public.
“And it does not look like the government is very committed to Labour issues, because first and foremost, the person who was appointed as Minister of Labour left his job and was made a Senator by a court, the Appeal Court, in a very controversial circumstance.

“He left his job and went to the Senate, and the President since then has not appointed a substantive Minister of Labour, meaning the government does not even consider issues that have to do with labour.”

The Chairman of the Centre for Accountability and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, also advised the tripartite committee to review the discussions, suggesting that N200,000 was not too much for the government to pay as a minimum wage.

He argued that N200,000 could be considered for the workers on the lowest cadre, stressing that N48,000 was not enough to cater for the needs of a low-level worker, given the current economic situation and inflation rates.
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