ICYMI

May 20, 2024

Minimum Wage: Why we may not accept N100,000 — Organised labour

Minimum Wage: No strike tomorrow, says Labour

Joe Ajaero, NLC President

….Tells FG to break down whatever amount it wants to pay

…Says it expects govt to be serious

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

ABUJA — Organised Labour has told the Federal Government to perish any thought of offering N100,000 as the new minimum wage.

It also asked the government to be serious with negotiations on the issue of workers’ wages, insisting that it used the lowest minimum in arriving at N615,000 as the new minimum wage.

Recall that Organised Labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, pulled out of the negotiation meeting last Wednesday when the government offered N48,000 as new minimum wage.

However, the chairman of the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage, Alhaji Bukar Goni, in a letter to Organized Labour calling a meeting to be held tomorrow, indicated interest that the government would shift ground and asked organised labour also to shift ground.

Speaking to Vanguard in Abuja, the NLC Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah, said organised labour will honour the invitation tomorrow but advised the government to be serious.

‘Govt should be serious’

He said: “Our expectations are that government should be serious this time around. We expect them to take more seriously the issue of wages of workers.”

On whether labour will accept N100,000 as insinuated in some qusrters, he said: “Well, it will not be fair and these are the reasons. The first reason is that when we demanded N615,000, we broke that down. In fact, we used the barest minimum.

“For instance, we put accommodation at N40,000, we also use for feeding N500, tell me where you are going to get food for N500 with a family of six. As I said, we used barest estimates but beyond that, government hiked electricity tariff by two hundred and fifty per cent after we made our demand and that has introduced costs and expenses.

‘’So if the government is serious, it should not be thinking about one hundred thousand naira. You know that when you create poor citizens, you create a poorer county.”

On his part, a member of the NLC delegation on the Tripartite Committee, Prof Theophilus Ndubuaku, said it would not be kind of the government to offer N100,000.

He said: “I don’t think one hundred thousand naira is a kind of thing we want because it’s far below expectation; we will accept something that can at least keep somebody alive. I don’t think a hundred thousand naira will keep a worker alive in this country, a man with a family of six because our computation is based on the size of a family.

“So, if they come up with that kind of amount, I don’t think we will appreciate it. In the private sector, even artisans are not taking one hundred thousand a month. Whatever we accept we will look what is the income, and what are they collecting. what is available to the government because if the government is collecting one trillion naira, we cannot ask them to pay two trillion.

“We are responsible people but the same government should know that people are suffering, they will have to agree with us that there is a crisis, that something needs to be done to create wealth, that something needs to be done for Nigeria to be a producing country and not a consuming nation.

‘’Something needs to be done to reduce the cost of governance. We are supposed to be partners in governance, after all, we are the labourers.”

‘Why Labour may not accept N100,000’

Asked to give a reason why labour may not accept one hundred thousand, he said: “If we see that hundred thousand is affordable, if we see that they can afford more, we will reject it. They have to tell us why they cannot pay N615,000, the onus is on them to tell us why, and then we will sit down and say okay you don’t have the money but we will also know why you don’t have the money because Nigeria is a country that is naturally endowed but something is wrong.

‘’How do you ensure you get the money so that when we come again in two years time, you won’t tell us the same story?

“What are you doing to create wealth? How are you going to partner with us to create wealth, instead of being wasteful? How are you going to partner with us to reduce the cost of governance? If a father comes home and says the only money he has is one thousand naira and you know that the father is not wasting the money, you will manage but if it is when the father comes and he is eating food bought from the fast food joint and it cost N10,000 and he gives one thousand to the entire family to go and look for food and cook for themselves, he may be beaten up, the family may refuse it.

“In the letter they wrote to us, they said both parties should shift ground, that means they will shift ground and they are expecting us to shift ground but the question is, what ground are they shifting? Are they going to shift ground by two naira or two thousand naira to make it N50,000? Or are they going to shift ground by N62,000 to make it N100,000 or by N150,000 or N200,000 to make it N300,000 plus?

“The point here is, this thing we are doing is not rocket science, the government should sit down and calculate how much it will cost. What is a befitting wage for an average Nigerian? They should breakdown what they are giving us because even in salaries, you break everything down. ‘’So when you break it down, they will tell us whether they are going to put one thousand naira per month for transport and two thousand naira per month for food.

“That N48,000 they are offering, they should have broken it down. If there are certain things they don’t want to make provision for, for instance, health, if they say if any worker is sick they person should go and die or they don’t want to make provision for food, let them just put standard things.
“The problem here is that, you asked someone to tighten his belt, you said there is no money but you removed subsidy. Since they removed the subsidy, FAAC has been collecting almost three times what they were collecting before the subsidy. That money you are collecting, what are you doing with it?

“You now said you want to build a coastal highway when the existing roads to the same location are not passable. You are budgeting trillions of naira, you want to build a Lagos-Sokoto brand new highway, you want to put billions for hajj subsidy, you bought 200 vehicles for Customs and this is somebody that is complaining that the naira is having issues but you now want to spend hundreds of billions to import Toyota cars for Customs, why can’t you buy made-in Nigeria vehicles?

“This whole thing doesn’t make any meaning, we don’t even understand it. They are behaving as if they have money but they don’t know what to do with it, like General Yakubu Gowon said in the 70s. You bought 200 Toyota Jeeps for Customs, it means you really do have the money but you don’t know what to do with it. ’But one thing you don’t want to do with the money is to feed Nigerians, feed your workers, make your workers comfortable.

“As you can see, they are not even giving anybody hope. There is no programme for agriculture, government is not declaring an emergency on power, food security, or transportation.

“So what we are expecting is that, if they tell us they cannot pay N625,000, they should tell us why they cannot pay, this is negotiation. If we have told them to pay N615,000, what we expect government to do is to calculate how many workers that are expected to receive this minimum wage.

“We did our research, you now say each state has this workforce, this is what they are now getting as revenue, forget the fact that some of them are not doing anything to increase their IGR. Whatever they are getting now from the money coming from the federal revenue account, the federal government should say, this is the number of workers we have, this is how much are asking, At the end of the day, this is how much we are expected to spend as salary and this is how much we have.

“So, NLC please look at it, we don’t want to spend this per cent on salary, we will then sit down and ask, if you don’t want to spend it on salary, you want to spend it by importing vehicles for Customs when you have locally manufactured vehicles that won’t cost capital flight.”

He, however, said if the government comes out with something” relevant “, organised labour would shift ground as requested by government.