Minimum wage: Labour cuts demand to N497k; FG, OPS offer N57k

Abuja – For the second day running, the ongoing tripartite negotiation on the new national minimum wage involving the Federal Government, organized labour and the Organised Private Sector, OPS, yesterday ended in another stalemate as government and private sector employers made minimal adjustments to their earlier offers.

This came as none of the six governors who are members of the committee attended the meeting yesterday.

But Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, was present at the meeting, which has been adjourned to Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
While organised labour which had earlier yesterday brought down its wage demand from N615,000 to N500, 000, and later N497,000, OPS increased its last week’s offer of N54,000 to N57,000.

The government negotiating team had earlier remained adamant, but had to take a short break to consult. It returned from the short break to increase its offer to N57,000 to match OPS’ offer. The government’s negotiating team had on Tuesday, offered to pay a minimum wage of N54,000.

Vanguard gathered that the government team added N3,000 to its earlier offer to match the OPS offer after members of the team returned from a short break to consult.

Recall that OPS had earlier upped its offer to N57,000 from the initial N54,000 it presented during last week’s meeting.
Vanguard sources said the labour negotiating team immediately rejected the fresh offers from both the government and its OPS counterpart, saying they were not ready to negotiate.

“Government has agreed that NLC is using evidence-based presentation. But they argue that eight states are not paying or not fully implementing the 2019 minimum wage.

‘’Government is talking of non-availability of funds. They are also talking about the inability of the private sector to pay.

“Labour has been requested to shift ground in response to the government’s. We complied and came down to N500, 000.
“Imo State governor has stepped in. He is not a member of the committee but it is good that there is at least a governor, as the six governors in the committee have been regularly absent,’’ a source told Vanguard yesterday.

One of the Labour leaders who spoke to Vanguard, expressed anger, saying the government is not ready to negotiate or was not prepared for negotiation.

The labour leader said: “Government cannot be telling us that there is no money; this is an insult. We did not remove subsidies or float the national currency. The government created this problem. Since the removal of the petrol subsidy and floating of the naira, has the government shown proof that the country has no money, no?

“We are aware that the government gave members of the National Assembly no less than N160 million each to buy cars, the same government has released N90 billion to subsidise hajj operations.

‘’The government has renovated the Senate chambers, and the vice president’s office, and it is buying luxury buses for Customs in millions of naira.

‘’They are also buying all manner of SUVs for government officers. Since the removal of subsidies, the government has been making life better for political elites who have been feeding fat on workers.

“Crude oil sales have increased considerably and it has been getting more money in dollars, while workers have been suffering and going deeper into poverty.

“The state governors have been receiving three times more than they were receiving before the removal of subsidy. We cannot accept this. We did not cause the socio-economic challenges the country is facing.

“The government inflicted these problems on the country with their ill-thought out and unprogressive policies of subsidy removal and devaluation of the national currency. If the country has no money, let it reflect in the lives of government officials, their aides and cronies.

“It is becoming obvious that the government does not want industrial peace. And it is clearly evident that the government is not ready to negotiate. Well, if it is industrial unrest that will make the government do the right thing, we shall give it to them after May ending. “

A source at the meeting, who spoke to Vanguard on the condition of anonymity, said labour rejected the N57,000 offer, noting “we are about to adjourn. No agreement.”

After the meeting, the source said: “They are crying now. They stuck to N57,000, there is a problem if the government cannot pay appreciable salary increase. There is no sign that there is no money, we adjourned till next Tuesday.
“The government is insisting on N57,000, which is like wage reduction, how can you go and negotiate wage reduction because there’s nobody that is earning N57,000 now?

“We came down from N500,000 to N497,000 because when they increased by N3,000, we now came down by N3,000 too so that if they are joking, we also decided to joke, they are not the only ones who know how to joke. We came down to N497,000, when they came up to N57,000. We told them straight away that we didn’t accept the N57,000 offer.

“They pleaded with labour to accept their offer, we told them there was nothing to plead about. We told them to break down the N57,000 offer, so we will know how much they are allocating to transport, how much to accommodation, how much to health so that we know and not lump everything but they didn’t do that.”

The source said government’s offer was once again presented by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.

Some of the government team members at the meeting included the Ministers of Finance, Wale Edun, Minister of Budget, Atiku Bagudu, that of Labour, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, among others.

On the side of the six governors that are members of the tripartite committee representing the six geopolitical zones, none was present but the governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma, came briefly and left.

He did not explain why he came, whether he came to represent Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State who represents the South-East zone.

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