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Minimum wage: Labour slashes demand to N500,000


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 The PUNCH 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.

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 The PUNCH 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.’’

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