Fed Govt promises living wage as NLC demands N615,000

living wage is coming soon for Nigerian workers, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu assured them on May Day.

He said the issues that prevented the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage from reaching a consensus would soon be resolved.

Minister of State for Labour, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said despite the delay, the new minimum wage would take effect from April 1 when approved.

She admitted that workers deserved a living wage and that the government would ensure they get it.

But Labour threatened strike should the committee fail to conclude negotiations on a new minimum wage by the end of May.

This was contained in a joint address delivered by leaders of the two labour centres – Joe Ajaero for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Festus Osifo for the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to workers.

Ajaero also faulted the pay rise for a cross-section of federal workers under certain consolidated categories announced Tuesday.

He described between 25 per cent and 35 per cent increase as mischievous given the ongoing talks.

Across the states where workers engaged in march pasts and aired grievances, governors announced their plans to improve workers’ welfare and listed what they had already done.

The Federal Government on January 30 inaugurated a 37-man Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage.

It was tasked with recommending a realistic national minimum wage that aligns with the current economic realities, but an agreement is yet to be reached.

President Tinubu, a Special Guest of Honour at the May Day Commemoration ceremony at Eagle Square, Abuja, promised better days ahead for the workers.

Represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, he urged Labour to collaborate with his administration in its efforts to achieve growth and development.

He said: “You would recall that on January 30th, 2024, the Federal Government convened a 37-member Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage.

“The committee’s mandate was to provide counsel and suggest a national minimum wage that aligns with our current economic conditions.

“Since then, the committee, in collaboration with labour leaders, has been diligently working towards proposing a new national minimum wage.

“Unfortunately, despite concerted efforts, the committee was unable to reach a consensus at its last meeting.

“This shall be resolved soon and I assure you that your days of worrying are over.

“Indeed, this government is open to the committee’s suggestion of not just a minimum wage but a living wage.

“Great Nigerian Workers, we cannot achieve a just and equitable society that caters to the needs of every member, including the strong and the weak, without fostering peace and unity.

“Our shared vision for national growth and development can only be realised in an atmosphere of industrial harmony and peaceful coexistence in every segment of our country.

“The dividends we have promised the nation, and which you work tirelessly to ensure, can only be achieved when we all unite for progress.

“So, I call upon each and every one of you, as I have consistently done, to join hands in shaping the destiny of our nation towards greatness.

“Our allegiance and patriotism are the bedrock upon which our beloved country thrives.”

President Tinubu stressed that the success of his Administration’s policies and programmes hinges on the willingness of the workers, as the backbone of the workforce, to embrace them wholeheartedly.

“I appeal to you to continue using the power of the labour movement for the greater good of our nation, fostering harmony and cooperation,” the President said at the Eagle Square venue of the event.

In a further statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, President Tinubu congratulated workers on their dedication and tireless efforts towards the nation’s progress and development.

He acknowledged the contributions of workers across various sectors, reaffirming his administration’s commitment to improving their welfare while citing various relief programmes, including the wage award and the imminent minimum wage review, it initiated.

“President Tinubu strongly believes that the custodians of the nation’s machinery deserve a fair wage and enhanced welfare and that a labourer is deserving of not just any reward but fair and commensurate wages.

“The President assures Nigerian workers of his dedication to not only improving their welfare but also enhancing their working conditions and providing the necessary tools for them to succeed.

Labour decries delays over new wage

Labour, in the joint address by Ajaero and Osifo, set May ending as the deadline for the conclusion of talks on the new wage.

They said: “At this point comrades, we want to inform you that the process of fixing a new national minimum wage is continuing.

“All the parties in the Tripartite process are well represented and the engagement has been robust.

“We have placed our demand of N615,000 only before our social partners while we await their offer.

“Remember that earlier in the year, we sent questionnaires to all of you across the nation with which we sought to measure the actual cost of living for an average family of six.

“Your response to that questionnaire which you also administered across the 776 LGAs assisted us in arriving at the figure with minor adjustments…

“However, it is important that we urge every worker around the nation to remain vigilant as this process winds to an end.

“We must not let our guards down but be alert so that together, we can assist the government make the right decision and pay workers a living wage as promised by our President, His Excellency, Bola Ahmed Tinubu during his inaugural speech.

“We will not allow other interests to sabotage the desire of the president concerning a Living wage for workers.

“If, however, the negotiation of the National Minimum wage is not concluded by the end of May, the Trade Union Movement in Nigeria will no longer guarantee industrial peace in the country.”

Osifo added: “If by the end of the month, nothing is done, we are going to push.

“You know we have several tools that can be used to compel them to do what is needed.

“We encourage the Vice President to compel the committee to meet as early as tomorrow (today) to conclude this work.”

The labour leaders regretted that after over a decade of privatisation of the power sector, the electricity situation has not improved.

They said the government needed to establish frameworks that would ensure energy works for all Nigerians.

“The reasons are glaringly evident. As long as those who sold the companies remain the buyers, Nigerians will continue to face formidable challenges in the power sector.

“It is unethical to force Nigerians to pay higher tariffs for non-existent electricity. Estimated billing is an extortion and daylight robbery against Nigerians,” they said.

The Labour centres also raised concerns about the resurgence queues at filling stations, wondering why local refining of petrol is yet to begin.

They said: “We will continue in our efforts to get the federal government to ensure that the refineries work.

“The promised Port Harcourt refinery remains idle, while the Dangote and WalterSmith refineries, though operational, have failed to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians.

“We cannot abandon the other refineries in Warri and Kaduna but should ensure that they start working.

“It appears there is a deliberate effort to sabotage our domestic refineries to perpetuate their non-operation, enabling a select few to profit from the unethical importation of refined petroleum products at the expense of the economy.”

Ajaero: pay rise mischievous

Ajaero, who appeared on a television programme, faulted the announcement by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC).

“The announcement appears mischievous because there is no wage increment that the government is announcing,” he said.

According to him, the last minimum wage of N30,000 expired on April 18.

“We should be in the regime of new minimum wage as of today. Discussions were supposed to have been concluded.

“The Federal Government through the National Assembly legislated on it.

“But we saw that the discussion entered voice mail because the Federal Government refused to reconvene the meeting that was adjourned.

“I think the announcement now appears mischievous because there is no wage increase that the government is announcing.

“For them to announce it now, it is an issue that we are worried about at the NLC and even at the TUC,” Ajaero said.

Ajaero explained how Labour arrived at N615,000 as the living wage for civil servants.

He said: “Living wage is such that will at least keep you alive. It is not a wage that will make you poorer and poorer. It is not a wage that will make you borrow to go to work.

“It is not a wage that will lead you to be in the hospital every day because of malnutrition. For that living wage, we have tried to look at N615,000.

“Let me give you a breakdown of how we arrived at that figure. We have housing and accommodation of N40,000.

“We asked for electricity of N20,000 — of course, that was before the current tariff increase. Nobody can spend this amount currently.

“We have utility that is about N10,000. We looked at kerosene and gas, which are about N25,000 to N35,000.

“We looked at food for a family of six, that is about N9,000 in a day. For 30 days, that is about N270,000. Look at medical, N50,000, provided there will be no surgery or whatever.

“For clothing, we looked at N20,000. For education, N50,000. I don’t know for those who tried to put their children in private school, they will not be able to cope with this amount. We also have sanitation of N10,000.

“I think where we have another bulk of the money is transportation. This is because the workers stay on the fringes and because of the cost of PMS, that amounted to N110,000.

“That brought the whole living wage to N615,000 and I want anyone to subject this to further investigation and find out whether there will be any savings when you pay somebody on this rate.”

TUC: N615,000 won’t cause inflation

Osifo does not think increasing the minimum wage from N30,000 to N615,000 would worsen inflation.

“From May 2023 to date, revenue from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) to the state governments has tripled,” Osifo said on a TV programme.

“This means the state governments have more money to build roads, schools and for other things.

“The most critical aspect of production is labour. It is for you to take part of the money and pay workers.

“That won’t increase inflation because the money will be spent anyway; if you don’t give it to workers, it will be spent on other projects.

“Giving workers what is due to them won’t necessarily worsen inflation.”

Osifo argued that the proposed N615,000 is designed to deal with current socio-economic realities.

Onyejeocha: issues to be resolved soon

Onyejeocha said the pending issues over a new wage would soon be resolved.

The minister said: “Although the committee could not reach a consensus at its last meeting before the April deadline, we want to reassure Nigerian workers that we are working diligently around the clock with organised labour to conclude negotiations and ensure a successful outcome.

“Our commitment is unwavering: the Nigerian workers should rest assured that despite the short delay, the new minimum wage will take effect on April 1, 2024.

“Moreover, this government is receptive to the committee’s suggestion of transitioning beyond a mere minimum wage to a living wage that truly reflects the value of workers’ contributions.

“I urge all stakeholders to embrace a spirit of cooperation, understanding, and patriotism, coupled with diligence and increased productivity.

“By working together, we can lift our nation out of poverty and usher in an era of prosperity for workers and citizens alike.

“Rest assured that this government empathises with the struggles of workers and citizens and will not falter in its commitment to their well-being.”

Akpabio, Abbas: workers have lawmakers’ backing

Senate President Godswill Akpabio said the National Assembly and the Executive would work collaboratively to give workers a living wage and better working conditions.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Eseme Eyiboh, Akpabio congratulated the workers as they commemorate May Day.

He said: “A Nigerian worker is noted for his patriotism, hard work, resilience, and dedication to duty.

“I am happy to be associated with the Nigerian worker in the last 25 years and I can attest to the fact that everywhere you go, the Nigerian worker’s spirit resonates profoundly.”

House of Representatives Speaker Abbas Tajudeen hailed workers for their immense contributions to the country’s growth and development.

He said Labour remains a critical stakeholder in nation-building, adding that the contributions of workers in the public and private sectors are immeasurable.

Mrs Tinubu greets workers

First Lady Oluremi Tinubu, hailed the immense contributions of the nation’s workforce, saluting teachers, farmers, doctors, nurses, engineers, and others who dedicate their skills and energy to building a better Nigeria.

She urged them to strive for excellence and productivity and to reflect on how they can be better.

“Let us not only celebrate work but also reflect on how we can be a better and more productive workforce.

“I celebrate the spirit of work with pride. May it continue to be a source of strength, prosperity, and national progress for Nigeria,” she said in a statement.

She added: “We must strive for excellence in all we do, and work together to build a Nigeria that we can all be proud of.

“Let us continue to be a source of strength and prosperity for our nation.”

<<The Nation>>