12th February, 2024
By Ayorinde Oluokun/NAN
Joe Ajaero, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, on Monday said the amount being demanded as the new minimum wage may be raised to N1 million per month if the economic situation in the country continues.
Ajaero who spoke on the Arise TV breakfast programme said with the continuous rise in the rate of inflation and devaluation of the naira, NLC may not have a choice, bot to continue to also jack up the amount being demanded as the new minimum wage.
“This N1 million may be relevant if the value of the Naira continues to depreciate; if the inflation continues to depreciate. 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, the exchange rate was about N900. 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 it that our demand will be based on the cost of living index.
“You’ll agree with me that a bag of rice is about N60,000 to N70,000. 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?
“We have to factor in all these issues. And that will determine the federal government’s commitment to these negotiations,” Ajaero said.
The present minimum wage was N30,000 was introduced about five years ago.
Vice President Kashim Shettima had on behalf of President Bola Tinubu on 30 January 2024 inaugurated a 37-man Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage with a mandate to recommend a new wage for the country.
Shettima while inaugurating the committee noted that the labour force stands as the cornerstone of the progress of every nation, and welcomed the nominees of the committee comprising government employers and the labour unions.
He said the need to review the minimum wage was one of the recommendations made to the government to cushion the painful effect removal of the minimum wage.
“We have identified the need for the review of the National Minimum Wage and to consider a minimum wage level that can alleviate the sufferings of the people.
“It gladdens my heart that the recommendation is being acted upon today and we can all acknowledge this is in line with our democratic process and adherence to the rule of law.”
Shettima noted that given the comprehensive membership scope of the new national minimum wage committee, in includes that all stakeholders recognise the significance of the initiative.
“And to ensure substantial engagements, the President hereby directs that Ministers and Head of Service of the Federation should personally attend the meetings, in their unavoidable absence, their Permanent Secretaries should represent them.
“Similarly, our executive governors are expected to attend in persons or be represented by their deputies where necessary.”
He urged members of the committee to consider the issue of the national minimum wage and all related matters with thoroughness and concern, keeping in mind not only the welfare of the workforce but also the impact on the country’s economy.
He said that the issue of the national minimum wage for the federation falls within the Exclusive Legislative list of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“Therefore, our objective should be to surface the basic social protection for all Nigerian workers considering the sustainable payment capacity of each tiers of government and other employers or businesses.
“I express this viewpoint because the minimum wage represents the least amount of compensation an employee should receive for their labour.
“And in such, it should be rooted in social justice and equity. I hope that the result of your deliberations will be consensual and acceptable to all parties on board.”
He disclosed that the government’s decision following the consideration of the final recommendations of the committee would be presented as an executive bill to the National Assembly.
“The bill enriched by the contributions of state government and private sector employers will undergo thorough legislative scrutiny before being passed into law.
“I am hopeful that the committee will employ the principle of full consultation with social partners and their direct participation considering the core provision of the International Labour Organisation Minimum Wage Fixing Convention number 131 and Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Conversation number 26, both of which have been ratified by Nigeria.”
The vice president said that the committee was anticipated to conclude its deliberations promptly and submit its reports and recommendations to the government.
He noted that timely submission of the reports was very crucial to initiate the necessary processes for implementing a new national minimum wage.
Shettima revealed that President Tinubu had directed the Minister of Finance as the Coordinating Minister of the Economy to allocate essential funds and logistics to the committee, to ensure timely completion of the assignment.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. George Akume, said that the work of the committee would be instrumental in shaping the economic landscape of the country.
” Today, we take another crucial step in fulfilling that promise by embarking on a comprehensive review of the national minimum wage.
“The Minimum Wage Act of 2019 empowers this Tripartite Committee, composed of representatives of government, organised labour, and employers to engage in open and constructive dialogue, to arrive at a fair and sustainable minimum wage.
“This process is not merely about numbers, it is about recognising the dignity of work and ensuring that all Nigerians have the opportunity to earn a living wage to meet their basic needs.”
The Chairman of the committee, Bukar Goni-Aji, assured that the committee would work assiduously to arrive at a new minimum wage that is fair, practical, implementable and sustainable for the good of the country.
Workers however expressed high hope the new minimum wage will be commiserate with the nation’s current economic realities while noting that the increase in the pump price of petroleum and devaluation of the Naira had massively affected the cost of living.
According to them, the exchange rate and inflation have rendered the N30,000 national minimum wage unsustainable and the committee comes up with a fair, realistic and decent living wage for the Nigerian workers.
Also, Mr Charlie Johnson, a civil servant, said it was important for the committee to complete its deliberations at a reasonable time and submit its reports and recommendations as soon as possible.
This, Johnson said, would enable other requisite machinery to be set in motion for the implantation of the new national minimum wage.
“I want to urge the Federal Government, the committee on the new national minimum wage not to footdrag on the deliberation processes as workers are suffering due to high cost of living,” he said.
A worker, Mr Gambo Haruna said given the current realities of the economy labour leaders should go into the deliberation well-prepared because workers expect their salaries to meet their needs.
“Fuel and food items are taking a large chunk of the salaries of workers; the transportation is very costly.
“The federal government had earlier said that due to the removal of fuel subsidy, it will make CNG buses available but up till now we have yet to see the buses.
“If the buses can be made available, the high cost of transportation will be brought to the barest minimum.
“This will go a long way in cushioning the effect of the challenges that Nigerian workers are going through,” he said.
Dr Tommy Okon, National President, Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN) said the informal economy was the worst hit by the economic challenges.
Okon, also a member of the Tripartite Committee, said organised labour would push for a living wage taken cognisance of the cost of transportation, accommodation, school fees, and health, among others.
“When the fuel subsidy was removed, labour was looking at N200,000 as a minimum wage but as we speak, that has already been overtaken by the social economic challenges.
“These challenges include inflation and devaluation of the naira so that amount is no longer attainable.
“We will negotiate as a team, I do not want to guess but these are indices that would form our submission and what we would be demanding as far as national minimum wage is concerned,” another worker said.
Mr Olawale Oyerinde, Director-General, of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and a member of the committee on National Minimum Wage, representing the private sector said the deliberation would be with an open mind.
Oyerinde said the private sector would deliberate with all commitment to have a seamless and fruitful conclusion that would be favourable for all.
“We will ensure that it will be a win-win for employers, labour and the government.
“We will also ensure that we follow what the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 131 on Minimum Wage Fixing stipulated,” he said.
To this end workers urge their negotiators to consult widely before arriving at a figure that would truly compensate for their contributions to nation-building.