Nigeria Labour Congress, Fed Govt negotiate new minimum wage

President Buhari
President Buhari
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A delegation of the federal government will today meet with officials of the organised labour led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to initiate modalities that will guide negotiations for the new N56,000 minimum wage proposed by the workers’ union.

The organised labour had on May 1, 2016 proposed a new minimum wage of N56,000 and the federal government had agreed to set up a joint committee to begin negotiations.

After about five months of delay, the negotiation is set to commence.

NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, who confirmed, yesterday, that talks were billed to resume today, described the renewed negotiation as a step in the right direction.

He said, “We have submitted that demand. As I speak with you, the negotiation committee has not even taken off, but what I was informed two days ago is that the process has been ongoing at different levels because there are various people driving the process.”

According to him, labour leader met yesterday to finalise their position, preparatory to their meeting with the government team today.

“They will then meet with the government side tomorrow (Tuesday). They want to tidy up the report, including the membership of the team that is supposed to negotiate the minimum wage,” Wabba said.

The labour leader lamented that the sitting of the committee had dragged for too long and that a lot of time had been lost in the process, further compounding the situation.

He said, “Workers are on daily basis being exposed and the purchasing power is going down, especially with the issue of the exchange rate

“They will be meeting tomorrow (Tuesday), and they are also trying to round off because they said they wanted the report to then go to the Presidency for formal approval because, at the end of the day, the president, must be involved. I want to assure you that we have not relented,” he said.

LEADERSHIP recalls that on May 1, 2016, Nigerian workers, under the auspices of NLC, had demanded an increase of the National Minimum Wage from the current N18,000 to N56,000.

Making the demand at this year’s May Day celebration in Abuja, the NLC argued that the increase had become necessary due to the prevailing harsh economic condition in the country.

Consequently, on May 25, 2016, the federal government and the NLC agreed to set up a 16-man committee to work out palliative measures and fashion out a new minimum wage that would cushion the effects of the increase in the pump price of petrol.

This was sequel to an agreement by the NLC to suspend a strike it had called to demand a reversal of the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N145 to N86.50 per litre. The workers’ union had accepted to enter into negotiations with the federal government on the review of minimum wage for workers.

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While negotiations continue, LEADERSHIP reports that most state governors have either refused to or are finding it difficult to pay the current N18, 000 minimum wage.

The chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, in December 2015, said governors may have finalised plans to either reduce the national minimum wage of N18,000 or retrench workers because of the current economic crisis.

Yari said: “Let me make it very clear to Nigerians, Governor’s Forum is not the enemy of labour in any way. Rather, we have been working together. But what we are saying, (because not only Governor Wike but also my friend in comradeship, Adams Oshiomhole, kicked against the decision).

“What we said is that when the National Assembly enacted the law of paying N18, 000 minimum wage, then oil was about $118 per barrel and today oil is $41 per barrel.

“So, if it continues like that, definitely we will find it difficult to continue. We have to sit down with the labour and see how we can review; either to continue or to downsize.

“We want to find a solution because we have to be realistic that we have so many things to touch: there is infrastructure deficit; there is need for security; there are other things like the social life of our people and nation as a state,” he said.

The N18, 000 minimum wage was signed into law in March 2011 by former president Goodluck Jonathan, thus putting an end to three years of prolonged negotiations, protests, strike and threats between the government and the organised labour.

The signing of the law by President Goodluck Jonathan increased the national minimum wage across the country from N7,500 to N18,000 per month.

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