…As govt begs Labour to demand implementable minimum wage
By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Joseph Erunke, Monsuru Olowoopejo & Fredrick Okopie
THE division in the nation’s labour movement yesterday manifested openly at the South-West zone, at the Public Hearing on National Minimum Wage for Nigerian workers, held in Ikeja, with United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, insisting on N96, 000 minimum wage, while Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, maintaining its fresh demand of N66,500 minimum wage.
This came as the federal and state governments, pleaded with labour to demand an implementable minimum wage that government could afford.
ULC had over a year ago broke out of both NLC and TUC and has been seeking registration as a labour centre.
The public hearing was organized by the Tripartite Committee of the National Minimum Wage.
Speaking at the Lagos hearing, President of ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, contended that the cost of living in the country prompted the demand for new minimum wage.
Ajaero who was represented by Secretary General of Nigerian Union of Railway, NUR, Mr. Segun Esan, lamented that eight years after the last minimum wage review the price of goods have skyrocketed.
According to him, “What N18,000 would have bought in 2010, you will need a minimum of N72,000 to buy it this year 2018. To therefore maintain the same standard of living that the average Nigerian worker enjoyed in 2010 this year, he needs to be paid at least four times his 2010 wages. After factoring ability to pay, we reached the understanding that instead of demanding N113,000 as the national Minimum wage which we believe will guarantee a Living wage for Nigerian workers, we demanded for N96,000 (Ninety-six thousand Naira) as national minimum wage.
Presenting the memoranda for NLC and TUC, Chairman, Political Committee, NLC, Lagos State Chapter, Agnes Sessi, said NLC and TUC were insisting on their “demand for a new monthly national minimum wage of N66,500, which is approximately the average of the implied minimum wages derived under three approaches.”
However in the Abuja hearing, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, who is the Chairman of Technical Sub-committee of the tripartite committee on minimum wage set up by President Buhari, said: “We have all along been concentrating on cost of living which is also important. However, in your contribution, let us also look at productivity index so as to get the best for the economy. By so doing, we will be enriching the outcome of this debate and making it less controversial and more amenable to implementation.”
In his presentation, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, however, said the new proposal of N66, 500 was fair and implementable if government was serious about welfare of workers, vowing that the Nigerian workers would not accept anything less.
Wabba lamented that each time the issue of minimum wage was raised, governments at different levels have always complained about issue of ability to pay, contended that the idea of the minimum wage was to protect the most vulnerable worker which he noted, cut across both the public and private sectors.
He said: “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.”