May 19, 2024

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

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

—Tells FG to breakdown whatever amount it wants to pay

— Says it expects govt to be serious

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

THE Organised Labour has told the government to perish any idea of offering N100,000 as the new minimum wage.

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

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

However, Chairman of the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum wage, Alhaji Bukar Goni in a letter to the organized labour for a meeting tomorrow indicated interest that the government will shift ground and asked the organised labour to also shift ground.

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

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

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

“For instance we put accommodation for 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 estimate but beyond that, government hiked electricity tariff by two hundred and fifty percent after we made our demand and that has introduced new cost and expenses. So if government is serious, it should not be thinking about a 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 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, what are they collecting, what is available to government because if 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 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.”

Asked to give reason why labour may not accept one hundred thousand, he said, “If we see that 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, 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 make sure 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 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.

“The letter they wrote to us they said that 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 Nigeria? 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 so 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 subsidy, FAAC has been collecting almost three times of what they were collecting before subsidy. That money you are collecting, what are you doing with it?

“You now said you want to build coastal highway when the existing roads to the same location are not passable, you are budgeting trillions of naira, you want to build 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 naira is having issues but you now want to spend hundreds 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.

“And as you can see, they are not even giving anybody hope. There is no programme for agriculture, government is not declaring emergency on power, food security, 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 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 that we have, this is how much that you 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 percent 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 that if the government comes out with something”relevant “, the organised labour will shift ground as asked.

“We must discuss with them that the figure presented is realistic and based on facts and statistics as the organised labour has done,” he said.

He said, “For provision of food for one person, we put N500 but there is a survey carried out by the National Bureau for Statistics covering all parts of the country, NBS is the custodian of statistics and it came out with that in today Nigeria, the average you can spend for a meal is N900.

“But we went low, we took the minimum. Their average is N900 but we took the minimum of N500, that is you cannot go below the N500. So you can see how realistic we are. So we will insist that government breakdown every item. Food, hospital, accommodation, transportation etc.

“We don’t want anyone to come and say that the NLC and the TUC presented arbitrary figure.”