16th July 2024
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Battle For The New Minimum Wage Still On As Aggrement Are Unresolved

The battle for the new minimum wage is still being waged as the government and labour have failed to reach an agreement. TOBA AGBOOLA reports.

THE seeming war on the new minimum wage between the governments and Organised Labour is far from over,  as the two parties are yet to reach an agreement.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) last week walked out on the Federal Government’s  team at an ongoing minimum wage negotiation meeting for proposing to pay workers a new minimum wage of N48,000.

According to some labour leaders, who were part of the meeting, the action was a non-verbal unanimous decision taken by their representatives.

 To this end, Comrade Tommy Etim Okon, the National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), said: “We were furious and highly disappointed that at a time inflation rate and other factors caused by government policies are unleashing untold hardship on workers and the masses, representatives of the government could dare propose what they considered ‘wage reduction’ as a minimum wage.”

Workers on May Day (Workers’ Day) asked the Federal Government to pay them a living wage of N615,000. However, some government’s officials said the figure was unrealistic.The leaders of the organised labour explained how workers arrived at the figure.

President of NLC, Comrade Joe Ajaero and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Festus Osifo, said: “The impact of the economic policies enacted under this administration has been profoundly harsh, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society – the workers, the marginalised and those on fixed income.

Again, early this week, Labour rejected the N54,000 new minimum wage proposed by the Federal Government

The Federal Government had at a meeting with Labour proposed N54,000 as against its earlier N48,000 offer.

Last week, Organised Labour told the Federal Government to perish any thought of offering N100,000 as the new minimum wage.

It also asked the government to be serious with negotiations on workers’ wages, insisting that it used the lowest minimum in arriving at N615,000 as the new minimum wage.

According to one of the labour leaders, who spoke with The Nation on condition of anonymity and who  attended the follow-up  meeting  on Tuesday, said the Federal Government upped its offer from N48,000 to N54,000.

“Well, during the meeting, the government increased its offer from N48,000 to N54,000. However, labour rejected that offer and the meeting has been adjourned till Wednesday,” a source who asked not to be named said.

When asked if the government’s side was showing any sign of seriousness, the labour leader said: “No seriousness at all. Even governors did not show up. Those who represented them, like Bauchi and Niger states, did not have the mandate to speak on their behalf.

“As regards the private sector, we did not get to them before the meeting was adjourned but we hope they also increase their initial offer.”

Earlier, Organised Labour reiterated its May 31, 2024 deadline for the implementation of the new minimum wage.

Ajaero insisted on the N615,000 minimum wage, arguing that the amount was arrived at after an analysis of the economic situation and the needs of an average family of six.

He blamed the government and the OPS for the breakdown in negotiation, saying: “Despite earnest efforts to reach an equitable agreement, the less than reasonable action of the government and the Organised Private Sector has led to a breakdown in negotiations.”

In a statement at the end of the NEC meeting by the NLC and TUC, which was signed by Ajaero and Osifo, the unions said they acknowledged the negotiations between the NLC/TUC, the Organised Private Sector and the Federal Government on the new minimum wage.

However, the NLC and TUC emphasised the urgency of reaching a fair agreement that reflects the true value of workers’ contributions to the nation’s development and the crisis of survival facing Nigerians as a result of government’s policies.

They affirmed their commitment to ensuring the welfare of workers.

President Bola Tinubu, through his deputy, Kashim Shettima, on January 30, this year, inaugurated the 37-member Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage to fix a new wage ahead of the expiration of the N30,000 wage on April 18. Its membership cut across Federal and state governments, the private sector and Organised Labour.

During their inauguration, Shettima urged the members to “speedily” arrive at a resolution and submit their reports early.

Governors warned against unrealistic demands from Labour and urged the committee to consider their capacities to pay.

Meanwhile, both the government and labour have shifted grounds. At a meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, while labour came down to N497,000, the government proposed N57,000.

But the meeting, which was attended by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; his Imo State counterpart, Hope Uzodimma and Anambra State Governor,  Prof. Charles Soludo (via Zoom) ended in a deadlock.

It was adjourned till next Tuesday.

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