Minimum Wage: Labour quits talks as FG offers N48,000; OPS N54,000

LAGOS — Organised Labour yesterday walked out of the minimum wage negotiation after rejecting the government and the Organized Private Sector, OPS, new minimum wage proposals of N48,000 and N54, 000 respectively.

Under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart, Labour described the government’s proposal of N48,000 as not only insulting the sensibilities of Nigerian workers but also falling significantly short of meeting their needs and aspirations.

According to organised labour, what the government offered is a reduction in income for federal-level workers who are already receiving N30,000 as mandated by law, augmented by former President Muhammad Buhari’s 40 per cent peculiar allowance of N12,000 and the N35,000 wage award, totalling N77,000.

At a joint briefing in Labour House by the President of NLC, Joe Ajaero and the Deputy President of TUC, Dr Tommy Okon, Labour lamented that the government’s failure to provide any substantiated data to support its offer exacerbated the situation.

‘Credibility of negotiation undermined’

It argued: “This lack of transparency and good faith undermines the credibility of the negotiation process and erodes trust between the parties involved. The NLC and TUC expressed profound disappointment as negotiations at the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee resumed today but reached an unfortunate impasse as a result of the apparent un-seriousness of the government to engage in reasonable negotiation with Nigerian workers.

“Despite earnest efforts to reach an equitable agreement, the less than reasonable action of government and the Organised Private Sector, OPS, has led to a breakdown in negotiations. The government’s proposal of a paltry N48,000 as minimum wage does not only insult the sensibilities of Nigerian workers but also falls significantly short of meeting our needs and aspirations.

“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 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 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 its 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 will result in a reduction in income for federal-level workers who are already receiving N30,000 as mandated by law, augmented by Buhari’s 40 per cent peculiar allowance (N12,000) and the N35,000 wage award, totalling N77,000.

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

“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 the rights and interests of Nigerian workers and will continue to engage in reasonable dialogue with the government if it shows serious commitment to find a fair and sustainable resolution to this impasse.

“We call upon 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 also Nigerians today as a result of the policies of the Federal Government.

“Together, in a reasonable dialogue, we can work to give Nigerian workers a N615,000 national minimum wage as proposed by us based on evidence and data. This will be in keeping with the pledge of the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s pledge to ensure a living wage for Nigerian workers.”

During a questions and answers session, Ajaero said: “The ministers of finance, budget and national planning, as well as minister of labour and employment, attended the meeting but left early. Only the deputy governor of Niger State stayed throughout the meeting.

“Governor Charles Soludo joined us via zoom but was preoccupied with defending his state. The finance minister’s report indicated that Anambra is among the states not paying the old minimum wage, so Soludo spent much of the time defending his state, instead of representing the governors’ forum.

“The organized private sector claimed that nobody is receiving less than N78,000, but they proposed a figure of N54,000.
“Regarding the next steps, we have a standing ultimatum on the minimum wage negotiation until the end of the month. The N615,000 we proposed is for them to challenge. Negotiation is typically led by labour unions. The government merely mentioned N48,000 without any breakdown of the figure and showed no willingness to discuss it.

‘’There is no seriousness. Instead, Governor Soludo was busy harassing governors who said they would pay N70,000, questioning why they made such statements when it wasn’t even our demand.

“Currently, the Governors’ Forum is meeting, possibly to further impoverish Nigerian workers, but they have not disclosed their revenue since the removal of fuel subsidy. It’s an indictment that the government lacks the necessary statistics for wage negotiation.”

On his part, Dr. Okon of TUC, said: “If you look at the history of national minimum wage negotiations, you will find that even in the worst economic conditions, the government has been considerate in their presentations. Even before the removal of fuel subsidy, the Buhari administration was considerate.

“For the Tinubu administration to have gained so much from the removal of the fuel subsidy, only to invite us to discuss wage reductions, shows that the government is paying lip service to the welfare of Nigerian workers. It indicates a significant amount of mistrust, and that trust deficit has not been resolved.”

Labour justifies N615,000 wage demand

Recall that the NLC had justified Organised Labour’s demand of N615,000 new national minimum wage, saying it is being magnanimous by not raising its demands, despite compelling reasons to do so.

According to NLC, the breakdown of the N615,000 include housing/accommodation @N40,000 a month; electricity/power @N20,000 a month; utility/water @N10,000; kerosene/gas @N35,000; food @N9000 a day, multiplied by 30 days (month) N270,000; medicals for a month @N50,000; clothing for a month @N20,000; education for a month @N50,000; sanitation for a month@N10,000; transportation for a month @N110,000,.

OPS pleads with Labour

Meanwhile, the Organised Private Sector, OPS, has pleaded with Organised Labour to return to the negotiation table, saying the action of labour to walk out, even when negotiations had not started, though within its rights to do so, was unfortunate.

Speaking on behalf of the OPS, the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Mr Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, said: “The action of labour to walk out before negotiation started is unfortunate.

‘’As it is seen globally, a major feature of all negotiations is for all parties to present their opening positions, which was done by all social partners. The expected follow-up action is the actual negotiation, with attendant counter-negotiations, alignment and realignment of positions, among others. The action of labour to walk out has the potential to delay the assignment of the minimum wage committee”

“We urge Organized Labour to reconsider its position and return to the negotiation table in the interest of its 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 cognizance of our current economic situation.”

Meeting resumes today, says c’ttee secretary

In the meantime, the secretary/ member of the Tripartite Committee NNMW, Ekpo Nta, has said the meeting will continue today, claiming it was adjourned yesterday.

A letter signed by the Director, Compensation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, NSIWC, Chiadi Adighiogu, on behalf of Mr Nta, read: “I am directed to inform you that the members of the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, after day-long deliberations at its 4th meeting today (yesterday), May 15, 2024, adjourned the meeting to resume tomorrow (today), May 16, 2024, at 11 am at the same venue.”

At the time of this report, all efforts to confirm with Labour leaders if they would attend the meeting proved abortive.

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