The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called for a living wage for vulnerable workers in the country.
NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, made the call at the National Minimum Wage Public Hearing by the Tripartite Committee in the Federal Capital Territory on Thursday in Abuja.
recalls that the organised labour had submitted a Memorandum to the Tripartite Committee, demanding for a monthly National Minimum Wages of N66, 500.
Wabba said the living wage was necessary to protect the most vulnerable workers from exploitation by their employers.
According to him, the minimum wage means the minimum below which no employer of labour should pay.
“We all know that workers work to earn a living and not just for the purpose of working or because you want to be a Good Samaritan.
“Every worker work to earn a decent living and that is the context of the minimum wage.
“Even the most capitalist country in the world, the United States has a minimum wage, but some states pay higher.
“The idea is to protect the most vulnerable worker which cut across both the public and private sectors. That is the context in which we must look.
“I have heard the argument that the call for minimum wage is trying to bring about an equal wage across the states of the federation and that is not true,’’he said.
He said that when the minimum wage was signed in 2011, some states offered to pay more than N18, 000.
The NLC president said that what the organised labour was demanding was a minimum across the country, stressing that this must apply to the private sector.
“I have checked all the vocabulary in political science and discovered that what you have is federalism and not true federalism.
“What the United States of America practice is federalism and in federalism, you need to protect the most vulnerable group from exploitation. If you say states should fix their own salaries, what about the private sector?
“What that means is that there will be exploitation. What we are saying is fix the minimum and not the maximum.
“We must protect the most vulnerable group in our society,’’ he said.
Wabba, however, said the minimum wage review was evidence-based anywhere in the world.
He said: ‘‘So, it is not arbitrarily fixed. ILO says it should be evidence-based with empirical data. In some countries like Ghana, they look at inflation.’’
He said the workers create the wealth and should benefit from the wealth they create, pointing out that the issue of ability to pay has always been a recurring decimal.
“We have agreed in principle that we should take a look at how to distribute our resources, while we work towards increasing internally generated revenue.
“If all these and more are considered, the will to pay will be there and the way will also be there,’’ he added.
Also, Dr Abel Afolayan, President, National Union of Pensioners (NUP), called on the Tripartite committee to also consider the increase of pension to a minimum of N40,000 per month alongside the proposed N66,500 national minimum wage for workers.
Afolayan who was represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Musa Ayuba, said the pensioners should be considered as the current wage could no longer sustain the standard of living of an average pensioner.
“We earnestly believe that there is an urgent need to grant and approve a National Minimum pension for Nigerian Pensioners to meet up with the current economic realities,’’ he said.
Earlier, Mr Lawrence Amechi, President, Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU), said that the organised labour has demanded for N66, 500 as the new national minimum wage for the Nigerian workers in the country.
“With the current economic realities, the N18, 000 cannot buy anything from the market and cannot afford basic necessities such as house, school fees and transportation among others.
“So, we want N66, 500 as the new minimum wage no less and we hope that our demand will be granted before the last quarter,’’ he said.