The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have bemoaned the effects of the inflation as the Federal Government finally inaugurated a 37-man tripartite committee to plan a new national minimum wage for the country.
The organized labour made their stance known on Tuesday as President Bola Tinubu who is currently on a private trip to France introduced modalities for a comprehensive review of the existing minimum wage.
Tinubu, who was represented by the Vice President, Kashim Shettima inaugurated the committee, with members drawn from Federal Government, state governments, Labour circle and the Organised Private Sector, enjoining them to employ collective bargaining agreement in their consultations to conceive a workable wage for workers.
The VP directed that governors, ministers and the head of the Civil Service of the Federation who are members of the committee must personally attend the committee meetings, and in the event where they are unavoidably absent, their deputies, commissioners and Permanent Secretaries should represent them.
Specifically, the tripartite committee is saddle with the responsibility of proposing a new national minimum wage for Nigerian workers.
While remarking, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkiru Onyejeocha callled on the committee to expedite action and ensure that issues around the minimum wage were completed before the April deadline.
She said, “Everything we’re going to do must end before April 1. There’s no need to delay because it is something that is backed by law and we must obey the law”.
The Presidend, Trade Union Congress,Festus Osifo, bemoaned that workers were facing an excruciating period, promising that the negotiation would stand out.
“As of the time we proposed N200,000 minimum wage, if you can recall, inflation had not gotten to where it is today.
“Also, at that time, the official exchange rate was somewhere around N450 to $1. At the parallel market, the rate was somewhere around N700 to $1. But today, all these have been shattered. What that means is that we’ll go back to the drawing board because Nigerian workers are battered as we speak; I mean the pay today is nothing,” said Osifo.
Also, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero pointed out that the outcome will depend on the commitment of the Federal Government.
“What is going to happen will depend on the commitment from the government and the negotiators.
“If the workers today are expectant, they want a robust minimum wage, I believe there won’t be any rigidity coming from the angle of the government. So, I’m in line with what my TUC president said. ”
National president of the National Association of Chamber of Commerce, Humphrey Ngonadi, raised concerns that the new minimum wage may be eroded by inflation and called on the Federal Government to first tackle inflation concerns.
“If a worker is paid N1 million as a minimum wage and a bag of rice is N900,000, the N1 million still has no meaning. So, as we are thinking of hiking the salary of the workers, the government should think of how that money will add value.”
Ahead of negotiation on the new minimum wage, organised labour has proposed a living wage of $300 for workers, noting that the current minimum wage of N30,000 has since been eroded by the high exchange rate coupled with the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy which induced high cost of living in the country.
Chairman, Trade Union Side, Joint Meeting of the National Public Service Negotiating Council, Benjamin Anthony, presenting the position of labour on Tuesday at the 2023 meetings of the Separate and Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council held at Goshen City, Nasarawa State.
Anthony, who was represented by the secretary of the union, Boma Mohammed, also condemned the recent delays in payment of salaries by the Federal Government to workers, stating that the trend must be stopped as the suffering in the land is already unbearable.
“As earlier stated, the time to review our minimum wage has come, in doing this; we must all agree that the current wage of N30,000 has since been eroded by the high exchange rate coupled with the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy which has translated into high cost of living in the country.
“There is no gainsaying that the cost of a bag of rice is far more than the so-called minimum wage, and to worsen the situation, the government is not prompt in the payment of the collectively agreed N35,000 wage award.
“In light of the above, Labour has proposed a living wage of $300 for Nigerian workers. This is due to the fall in the value of our currency. Today, if you carry N100,000 to the market, you will come back with a leather bag of items.
“We call on the government to immediately pay the arrears of the N35,000 wage award along with the current and expedited action on the process of getting a new living wage to bring succour to the working class people”, he said.
Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, the convener of the meeting, enjoined leaders of the organised labour to engage Federal Government in dialogue in order to achieve peace and stability towards enhanced productivity in implementing government policies.
Yemi-Esan, represented at the event by the Director overseeing the office of the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare (SWO), Dr Kemi Adeosun, noted that she believed that the positive impact of the meeting and subsequent ones would serve to maintain a stable and goal-driven public service in the country.