NewsMinimum Wage: More Trouble Ahead

Minimum Wage: More Trouble Ahead

June 10, (THEWILL)- Coming on the verge of June 12, 2024, when a coalition of civil society organisations, socialist groups and radical political parties have called for nationwide peaceful protests to oppose the economic policies of the government, the expiration of the five-day notice given by organised labour to allow for uninterrupted meetings with the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage poses a challenge to all the  parties involved.

The Federal Government, on Friday night, fulfilled its promise to increase the minimum wage beyond the proposed N60, 000 and it offered a new minimum wage of N62,000 to workers.

The government presented the new wage to representatives of organised labour on Friday night, after a 12-hour meeting of the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage held at Nicon Luxury Hotel in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

However, representatives of organised labour, comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), differ, as they shifted their demand from N494,000 national minimum wage to N250,000.

Earlier on Friday, state governors on the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum expressed their inability to pay N60,000 as new minimum wage. They however proposed N57, 000 grudgingly.

Currently, many states cannot even pay the N30,000 wage. According to BudgiT, in its 2023 The State of State Report, 15 states are yet to implement the minimum wage of N30,000, while the 36 states of the federation grew their cumulative personnel cost by 13.44 per cent to N1.75tn in 2022 from N1.54tn in 2021.

Reacting to these challenges, the coalition of civil society organisations, socialist groups and radical political parties called for nationwide peaceful protests on 12 June 2024, to oppose the economic policies of government, which they said, have increased hardship and hunger among Nigerians.

The coalition criticised President Tinubu’s economic decisions, including the removal of fuel subsidies and the devaluation of the naira, which they argue have led to skyrocketing inflation and widespread poverty.

According to them, headline inflation has risen to 33.7 per cent and food inflation stands at 40.5 per cent, since President Bola Tinubu assumed office. They highlighted that at least 31 million Nigerians are food insecure, with many struggling to afford basic necessities.

The groups lamented the closure of several industries, job losses and the increasing cost of living as a result of the government’s economic policies and condemned “Tinubu’s plans to deepen pro-market policies through the Accelerated Stabilisation and Advancement Plan (ASAP),” which they believe will worsen the economic situation.

Disclosing that 12 June protests will begin at Ikeja under-bridge in Lagos at 8 am, with similar events planned across the country, the coalition urged Nigerians to join in solidarity, emphasising that meaningful change requires collective action.

The coalition’s demands, which resonate with organised labour, include reversal of fuel price and electricity tariff hikes, increasing the minimum wage, reducing political office holders’ salaries, ensuring social protection for informal workers, and ending press freedom attacks. They also called for the release of detained journalists and political activists.

The coalition comprises Take It Back Movement represented by Sanyaolu Juwon, Joint Action Front (JAF) represented by Peluola Adewale, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) represented by Hassan Taiwo Soweto, Federation of Informal Workers Organisation of Nigeria (FIWON) represented by Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, Socialist Workers League (SWL) represented by Kunle Wizeman and PRP Vanguard represented by Comrade Bashir Bello.

Presenting the new wage offer on Friday, representatives of the Federal Government, including Wale Edun, whose committee has met the 48-hour deadline given by the President to work out a template detailing the financial impact of implementing an affordable, sustainable and realistic national minimum, as well as the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu, and his counterpart in Labour and Employment (State), Nkiruka Onyejeocha, joined by a representative of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) and state governments’ representatives, including the Director-General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF); Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma and representatives of Organised Private Sector (OPS), announced the offer to the leaders of organised labour led by NLC President, Joe Ajaero, and his TUC counterpart,  Comrade Festus Osifo.

The Tripartite Committee then adjourned without reaching a consensus at the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) expressed solidarity with organised labour, saying that it stands resolute in its commitment to championing the rights and welfare of Nigerian workers and the oppressed citizens, irrespective of political view or other affiliations.

Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the CNPP, Comrade James Ezema, the umbrella body of all registered political parties and political associations in the country said, “In the light of the prevailing economic situation, we firmly insist that our hardworking citizens deserve a national living wage that reflects their contributions to the nation’s growth and the realities of our time.”

Giving a reason for a national living wage, the CNPP said, “Nigeria faces significant economic challenges, including inflation, rising costs of living, and the removal of petrol subsidies. These factors disproportionately affect workers who struggle to make ends meet.

“We believe in the resilience and dedication of Nigerian workers and, as the backbone of our nation, their well-being directly impacts our collective progress.

“A national living wage ensures that workers can afford basic necessities, support their families and contribute effectively to the economy. A poorly paid worker in view of the high cost of living in the country will most likely be a corrupt civil servant or employee.”

As a long-term solution to the wage increase matter that has lasted for almost a year and exceeded the mandatory April deadline for the implementation of the statutory new wage, the CNPP urged Nigerian workers to unite in their demands, trust in the collective strength, not just in the unions, to be architects of their destiny and called on the government to cut cost of governance and save money for the salaries of Nigeria workers, while prioritising development-oriented policies and investments. This ensures that government spending directly contributes to growth and well-being.

“The CNPP emphasises that Nigerian workers are not mere statistics; they are the heartbeat of our nation. Let us ensure they receive a living wage that reflects their worth,” it said.

Amos Esele, THEWILL
Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

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