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  • Updated: March 07, 2024

Minimum wage: Organised labour takes fresh decision

Minimum wage: Organised labour takes fresh decision

As Nigeria faces skyrocketing inflation and rising living costs, organised labour, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has suggested a bold N500,000 minimum salary for Nigerian workers.

The development comes as zonal public hearings on the new salary structure begin today in six geopolitical zones: Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja.

In a recent interview with Arise TV, Joe Ajaero, President of the NLC, hinted at the potential of pressing for a minimum salary as high as N1 million if current inflationary trends continue.

The statement emphasised the poor economic situation in which many Nigerian workers find themselves, as well as the urgent need for wage modifications that reflect local reality.

A top NLC official, speaking to Punch on the condition of anonymity, stated that the sum under consideration at today's conference, based on submissions from state chapters, is N500,000.

This suggestion seeks to address the huge reduction in purchasing power and hardships experienced by workers as a result of present economic conditions.

The public hearings are intended to gather views and comments from a wide range of stakeholders, including state governors, ministries, civil society organisations, and the commercial sector.

The goal is to get an agreement on a new minimum wage that is consistent with economic reality and meets workers' expectations.  

The hearings are presided over by famous personalities, with Joe Ajaero representing the northeast zone in Yola, Adamawa State, and Wale Edun, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, heading the Southwest session in Lagos.

The proposal comes after President Bola Tinubu's deputy, Kashim Shettima, inaugurated a 37-member panel on January 30, 2024.

The panel, which includes officials from the federal and state governments, the commercial sector, and Labour, is entrusted with recommending a new national minimum wage by April 1, following the expiration of the current N30,000 minimum salary.

Ajaero 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?”

However, in an interview with Punch on Wednesday, a top NLC official stated that organised Labour would insist on a minimum salary somewhat higher than N500,000 based on a review of recommendations from state chapters.

The official, who spoke in confidence since he was not permitted to speak to the media about the negotiations, stated that the cost-of-living study conducted in states was N900,000.

He said, “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.

“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.

He added, “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, NLC state chapters do not negotiate the national minimum wage because they are not members of the tripartite committee.

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