Labour eyes N100,000 minimum wage as NEC meets Monday

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Organised Labour has said it will not accept anything less than N100,000 as minimum wage as the negotiations between its representatives and the Federal Government heighten, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

Several impeccable sources from both the Trade Union Congress and Nigeria Labour Congress who spoke to Saturday PUNCH stressed that the Federal Government and the organised private sector should not expect labour to accept anything less than a six-digit offer.

The unions said the government was not serious about the negotiations, adding that the shift from N48,000 to N57,000 was too meagre to be considered as ‘shifting grounds’.

They noted that the promise made by President Bola Tinubu when he became President and on Workers’ Day was that the Federal Government would pay a living wage, adding that N57,000 did not fall into that category.

The sources also noted that they were going to have a national executive council meeting on Monday in preparation for the meeting with the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage on Wednesday.

The meeting on the ongoing negotiations on the new minimum wage was adjourned till Wednesday after Organised Labour rejected the new N54,000 minimum wage proposal by the Federal Government.

The PUNCH had reported that the Federal Government upped its offer from its earlier proposed N48,000 to N54,000.

Tuesday’s meeting came as a result of the walkout staged by members of Organised Labour following the proposal of N48,000 as minimum wage by the Federal Government during last week’s meeting.

During that meeting, the OPS had also proposed N54,000 while labour insisted on its N615,000 living wage demand, which it later reduced to N497,000.

One of our correspondents who spoke to sources who attended the follow-up meeting on Tuesday learnt that 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 whether the government’s side was showing any sign of seriousness, the labour leader said, “No seriousness at all. Even state 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.”

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

The National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, had insisted on N615,000 minimum wage, arguing that the amount was arrived at after an analysis of the current economic situation and the needs of an average Nigerian 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.”

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In a statement released at the end of the jointly held NEC meeting by the NLC and TUC which was signed by Ajaero, and the TUC President, Festus Osifo, the unions said they acknowledged the ongoing negotiations between the NLC/TUC, the OPS and the Federal Government regarding the new national minimum wage.

Speaking on the breakdown in negotiation, the Financial Secretary of the NLC, Hakeem Ambali, said the percentage of the ground shifting by Organised Labour had been substantial, moving from N615,000 to N497,000.

“When you look at the percentage of ground shifting by Organised Labour, you can see that it is very substantial. The FG’s shifting is still very meagre. We are looking for the FG to reason and fulfil its promise of paying a living wage to Nigerian workers. That is their position.

“The meeting is adjourned till Tuesday next week. Our position is N497,000. We are watching the FG and other partners in the collective bargain to shift ground. It is now their turn to shift ground substantially and not the piecemeal figure that is being given. That is not what labour is expecting. Any approval that is not up to six digits is nothing to consider by labour,” he said.

Another senior labour leader who chose not to be named said if the Federal Government and the OPS propose an offer of N100,000, Organised Labour might consider it.

The source said, “They haven’t even brought the N100,000 that the experts they consulted have recommended. Anything less than N100,000 is an insult to us as workers.”

Another national leader of the TUC who chose to be anonymous because he was not authorised to speak on the matter said it was disappointing for the OPS to take sides with the FG.

He said, “The Organised Private Sector representatives that have followed the government to offer workers N57,000 as minimum wage are doing themselves more harm than good. The reason is that taxation is killing the OPS. You cannot stimulate the economy with heavy taxation. For instance, if the Organised Labour decides to go on strike today, the government would not suffer as much losses as the OPS. Theirs would be colossal.

“Government has a way of recouping their loss but the OPS would run away from the economy and close shop. It is expected that the OPS and FG see beyond the partnership. A sensible OPS would work with Organised Labour. The reason is that even those working in the OPS are labourers. No amount of investment you put in, labour plays a major role among the factors of production.”

Speaking further, he said, “They need to also know that whatever they produce today is going to be consumed by other workers. The government is making use of electricity and is the one not paying. But, a worker buys and pays. That demoralises the economy. What we are saying is nothing but the reality.”

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The labour leader further added that anything short of a six-figure minimum wage would be rejected by Organised Labour.

The source added, “Anything short of six figures in the national minimum wage negotiation cannot guarantee industrial peace and harmony. The implication of that is that, when you put the amount of manpower loss, vis-à-vis the financial implication, the government would lose heavily. We don’t have guns but we have the right to withdraw our services.”

The source further stressed Organised Labour would not fail to go on strike if the government rescinded its promise.

He said, “Even the International Labour Organisation voted to strike as a fundamental right. It therefore means that even in a court of law; strike is our right. That is why we have sent that notice for them to know. We have given them ample opportunity to decide on time.

“We are ready to shift ground but the government must be ready to negotiate a minimum wage with sincerity. This is because the ability to pay is not the problem but the willingness to pay. The government must learn to cut the cost of governance.”

 N30,000 minimum wage

 Speaking on states that had yet to start paying the old minimum wage of N30,000 which was agreed upon in 2019, the NLC spokesman, Ben Upah, said, “The states that have not been paying the old N30,000 minimum wage are Kogi, Zamfara, Anambra, Ebonyi, and Sokoto.”

Labour leaders to meet

Meanwhile, Organised Labour has said for it to present a lower demand, the Federal Government must be willing to bring up a reasonable offer.

Speaking with our correspondent in Abuja, a highly placed source who is a labour leader and a member of the tripartite committee on minimum wage told our correspondent that labour leaders would meet ahead of Tuesday’s negotiations.

The labour leader also noted that Organised Labour was willing to propose a lower amount as a living wage should the government present a reasonable offer.

“This is simply a case of if they go higher, we will go lower. They need to propose something reasonable for us to propose something lower too. There is no two-way approach.

“Also we have a way of meeting ourselves as members of Organised Labour before each committee meeting. This will help us to take a uniform stand by the time we get to the meeting front. So as long as the government is ready to present something reasonable, we will meet them in the middle,” the leader added.

‘Why Anambra can’t pay N30,000’

Meanwhile, the Anambra State Government has blamed the paucity of funds for its inability to comply with the current N30,000 minimum wage.

It was also gathered that the monthly contributory pension being deducted from the workers’ monthly salaries has not been remitted to the right places since 2019.

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The issue has become a great concern to labour leaders who called for the stoppage of the deductions from their salaries.

A source in the state Ministry of Finance, who craved anonymity, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, revealed that there was currently no standard minimum wage in the state.

He stated that, while some workers in the state received N18,000 and N25,000, others received N28,500 as minimum wage, adding that the Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, had set up a committee to look into the minimum wage issue to resolve the grey areas.

The source said, “The state government has not been paying a minimum wage of N30,000. A paucity of funds and dwindling resources from the federal allocation are blamed for the development. The minimum wage used to be about N18,000 until the last administration added N5,000 to it.

“But the current administration, some time ago, was paying the workers an additional N12,000, it did it for some months, until it stopped.”

State NLC reacts 

When contacted, an NLC leader in the state, who did not want to be named, said seven points raised were discussed and thrashed at the meeting with the governor, adding that a tripartite committee would be set up to smoothen the grey areas.

According to him, it would have been a different thing if Anambra had workers on Grade Level 1, but that the state didn’t have that.

He said the governor has also set up another committee that will look into the issue of increasing the wages for workers and the committee would comprise the NLC, TUC, NULGE, as well as government officials, including the accountant general of the state.

‘Kogi not owing’

The Kogi State chairman of the NLC, Gabriel Amari, said listing Kogi as one of the states not paying N30,000 minimum wage was misleading.

He said the state had been paying the N30,000 minimum wage to workers on levels one to six since 2022 after much negotiating with the state government.

Similarly, the Sokoto State Government debunked media reports of not paying the N30,000 minimum wage to workers in the state civil service.

The Commissioner for Information, Sambo Danchadi, who stated this while speaking with one of our correspondents on Friday, said, “We have been paying the minimum wage in the state for the state civil service. The governor since his assumption of office has been putting the interest of workers as one major aspect of his government.”

Also speaking, the state Secretary of the NLC, Hamisu Hussain, said the government, said, “We are currently discussing with the state government on the payment of minimum wage for the state local government officials.

“The state workers have been enjoying it but the government has not captured the local government workers,”

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