News

March 8, 2024

Minimum wage: NLC, TUC split, want different pay in zones

Minimum wage

By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Egufe Yafugborhi, Dennis Agbo & Chioma Onuegbu

LAGOS — Organised Labour was divided, yesterday, over what the new minimum wage should be. The lack of unanimity was evident at public hearings organised by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, TCNMW, across four of the six geo-political zones of the country.

In the South-West, while leaders of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, proposed N794,000, those of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, proposed N497,000 as minimum wage as the Director-General, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, MINILS, Ilorin, Kwara State, Comrade Issa Aremu, said the range should be between N120,000 and N200,000.

In the South-East, the NLC said it preferred the new minimum wage to be N540,000, while the TUC suggested N447,000.

However, South-South workers proposed N850,000, with their North-West counterparts angling for N485,000 minimum wage.

This happened as North-West governors shunned the parley with their South-West colleagues, saying it will be hard to sustain higher wages for their workers without a significant adjustment in some of the narratives in the national economy, such as revenue sharing formula.

However, Governors Douye Diri (Bayelsa) and Umo Eno (Akwa Ibom) promised to abide by the resolutions of the parleys.

Drama in South-West

The differences in the proposals of the NLC and TUC in the South-West came as governors from the zone said the majority of governments in the zone could hardly sustain improved wages and salaries for workers as things stand now.

Organised Labour is advocating a N500,000 minimum wage, following the submission of proposals by state chapters to the headquarters of the congress.

The hearing is aimed at hammering out a new minimum wage that aligns with the current economic conditions and meets the expectations of workers.

On the government’s part, the argument was that even though workers deserve a new wage, each state should be allowed to negotiate with its respective workers because of its peculiarities.

However, labour unions described the stance of some governors’ inability to pay minimum wage as “unacceptable.”
These were the high points of the South-West, geo-political zone public hearings organised by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, TCNMW, and chaired by the Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun. The hearing was held at LTV Ground, Agindingbi, Ikeja, Lagos.

The chairman of Lagos State NLC, Mrs. Funmi Sessi, recommended payment of at least N794,000 minimum wage for workers and appealed to the Federal Government to ensure that the national minimum wage remains on the exclusive list.

Sessi also suggested that a review of the minimum wage should be every two years instead of the current five years.
Sessi asked for a 13 per cent derivation for Lagos State because of its peculiarities, noting Lagos needs to conform to the standards of other cities of the world.

On his part, the representative of TUC, Mr Gbenga Ekundayo, called for an annual review of minimum wage as stated in Section 3(4) of the National Minimum Wage Act; and advocated for N497,000 new minimum wage.

Organised private sector

To the Director-General, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, MINILS, Ilorin, Kwara State, Comrade Issa Aremu: “in real-time, the purchasing power of workers has been eroded. The two scriptures recognize the payment of workers. If you pay workers very well, it is Godly. It is also good economically because workers are meant to purchase goods and services.

“To get the minimum wage right, you must talk about affordability. We should be realistic on what will keep workers alive and at the same time sustain the establishments. I think we should be talking in the range of N120,000 to N200,000.”

Others who spoke at the South-West hearing include Professor Adejumo Akintoye, who represented the Congress of Nigerian University Academics, CONUA; Mr Tayo Adelaja, who represented the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN; Vice-President (South-West zone) Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, NASME, Mr Solomon Aderoju, who lamented that firms and workers are facing hard times in the country.

S’West govs list challenges of meeting minimum wage

Speaking on behalf of his South-West colleagues, Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, said: “The committee on the proposed New Minimum Wage was established by the Federal Government and I was appointed to represent governors from the South-West geopolitical zone.

“In all our meetings and various deliberations, one thing that the committee has been able to establish is that the workers in Nigeria are due for an improved welfare package.

“To this effect, there is a consensus for an upward review of the National Minimum Wage because the existing one has become unrealistic.

“Having said this, it has to be reiterated that the majority of governments at the Sub” nationals can hardly sustain improved wages and salaries for their workers without a significant adjustment in some of the narratives in the national economy.”

He continued: “In tandem with the public outcry for the review of the sharing formula for the federation account, the time has come for the Federal Government to revisit the matter. “There is an urgent need for the review of existing sharing formulas in favour of states and local governments. I call on the National Assembly through the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, to urgently take decisive action to look at the ratio objectively and realistically.

“As we offer opinions on minimum wage, I will admonish all workers both in the private sector and public service to improve their productivity. This is a way to ensure the sustainability of the new minimum wage when it is eventually approved.

“Our position from Osun State is that workers deserve improved wages and salaries. The Osun State Government is in support of a new and realistic minimum wage for all workers within the limit of available resources in a very sustainable manner.

In Lagos, we prioritize workers’ welfare, says Sanwo-Olu

Earlier, the chief host, and Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Head of Service, HoS, Bode Agoro, said that Lagos is committed to working collaboratively with other states and the Federal Government to arrive at a fair and realistic wage structure that takes into account, the diverse economic conditions across the nation.

“In Lagos State, we have always prioritized the welfare of our workers, recognizing that a well-compensated and motivated workforce is essential for sustainable development. One notable accomplishment has been the regular review of the minimum wage. I am proud to announce that Lagos State has implemented a minimum wage of N41,500, surpassing the standards set by many other states in the region.”

FG wants to make an informed decision – Edun

Earlier, Finance Minister Edun said the committee is interested in well-researched position papers that will aid informed decisions.

The minister, who is the South West Zonal Committee Chairman on the minimum wage, said: “We must recognize the significance of this assignment and its multiplier effect on the lives of millions of hardworking citizens and our great country Nigeria.

“We recognize the interests of balancing both employers and employees to achieve a fair and sustainable minimum wage that promotes social justice and economic stability.”

“The 37-member National Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee, which Mr. President constituted with equal memberships drawn from the government side (Federal and states) organised labour and the employers’ association has been tasked with ensuring that our minimum wage reflects the evolving economic landscape, adequately addresses the well-being of our workforce and of course the ability to pay sustainably.”

NLC, TUC divided in S-East

At the South East zonal public hearing organized by TCNMW in Enugu,, the Enugu State TUC Chairman, Comrade Ben Asogwa, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues in the zone, said that wage increase had become inevitable based on the present economic situation in the country.

While the NLC said it prefers the new minimum wage to be N540,000, the TUC maintained a proposal of N447,000; with both organised labour unions concurring that the minimum wage law should be reviewed every two years instead of five years as the law currently prescribes.

Asogwa said: “We can’t bear the suffering again, we believe that the needful should be done, we’re disappointed that the governors are not here. We have seen that five years is a long time for the review and so we have proposed that the minimum wage should be reviewed every two years.

Unwilling govs should quit or be impeached

“We are also saying that the law should reflect that any governor who is not ready to pay the minimum wage law should vacate his office and not the fine of N250,000 as recommended by the law. TUC is looking forward to the possibility of implementation of the wage and we can’t give a different proposal from what the national leadership of the TUC has made and so we affirm that the least we can take is N447,000.”

The Enugu State Chairman of the NLC, Fabian Nwigbo, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues in the zone, noted that it was not even all the states that implemented the old N30,000 minimum wage.

Nwigbo lamented that Nigeria’s minimum wage was less than eight per cent of what was obtained in other African countries, stating that in 2019 when N30,000 was proposed, prices of commodities and fuel were lower than their present rates.

South-South workers propose N850,000,00 minimum wage

In the South-South zone hearing, workers proposed tN850,000 as the new national minimum wage.

The position of the zone was contained in a memorandum presented in Uyo by the Chairman of the (NLC Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Sunny James, at the event.

James stated: “The standard of living for every worker has become suicidal and strangulating. Every single item a worker depends on for sustenance has gone out of reach-foodstuffs, transportation, school fees, accommodation, medical care, clothing, even ordinary sachet water.

“The leadership of Congress, therefore, posits that to ensure social stability, increased productivity and to adhere to the global requirements of decent work, the following socio-economic indicators must be considered as we review the 2019 minimum wage: The cost of living per day, housing/accommodation, Transportation/utility, Health, Educational, etc. Using the above key indicators for measurement and considering that the comparatively high cost of living peculiar to the oil -producing areas, a consequence of oil exploration and mining activities, the South-South zone hereby proposes a new wage of N850,000.”

He also recommended that the minimum wage should be retained in the exclusive legislative list.

He continued: “The zone proposes a penalty for those contravening the minimum wage to include the impeachment and imprisonment of such insensitive/inhuman governors, withdrawal of operational license to the defaulting private sector employers.”

In its memorandum the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, said it supports the demand of N850,000 minimum wage as proposed by the NLC.

Prof Emem Abraham, Akwa Ibom State Chairman of NMA, who submitted the memorandum to the committee, noted that the consequential adjustment is of utmost importance to NMA members.

We’ll implement new wage – Govs Eno, Diri

In his remarks, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno, who noted that the welfare of Akwa Ibom workers had always been on the government’s priority list, assured that the state would implement the outcome of the hearings.

Eno who was represented by Head of Service, Elder Effiong Essien said: “It is on record that in the 2019 new minimum wage implementation effort, Akwa Ibom State was the first to inaugurate the state implementation committee.

“In line with the spirit and intent of the ongoing revision of the National minimum wage to provide a living wage, I wish to assure that my state, Akwa Ibom will align and oblige the outcome as usual, when the input from the hearings shall have been collated, considered and enacted into the Act by our legislators.”

Similarly, Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State who was represented by the Head of Service, Mrs Biobelemoye Charles-Onyeoma, said: “ I want to thank His Excellency the President for setting up this committee in recognition of the plight of the workforce and the need to engage the stakeholders.

“We appreciate the workforce of Nigeria because without the workforce the government cannot do anything. Having listened to all the presentations I want to encourage us that as a government whatever harmonious review that would be done, we will be willing and ready to abide by it.”

N’West NLC proposes N485,000 minimum wage

In the North-West, the NLC proposed N485,000 as the new minimum wage for workers.
At the hearing held at the Coronation Hall, Government House, Kano, Kano State Chairman of the NLC, Kabir Inuwa, proposed on behalf of the North West leadership of the congress.

He said the proposed minimum wage of N485,000 was necessary considering the dynamics of the national economy.
“The congress thinks that for any minimum wage to achieve its purpose it must reflect the realities of the economic situation and accordingly assess the least income that would be sufficient for the survival of a family of six,” Inuwa said.

The NLC chairman said that the Minimum Wage Act provides all the protection required to ensure compliance.
“This may be initiated by an individual or trade unions. The lack of awareness of the existing laws constitutes rampant contravention of the law most especially by some state and local governments. If the labour unions can initiate a mechanism to explore the provision of the law, would record minimum defaults.

He urged the Federal Government to ensure compliance by withholding all allocations to any state or public institutions that contravened the minimum wage law. Governors of the North-West zone were absent apart from Katsina State Governor, Dikko Radda, who sent a representative, and the host governor, who was represented by his deputy, Abdulssalam Gwarzo.