NLC justifies N615,000 demand

Organised Labour has justified its proposed N615,000 minimum wage demand.
The request is based on a conservative analysis of what an average Nigerian family needs to survive.

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Joe Ajaero stated this yesterday during his visit to the headquarters of The Nation in Lagos.

He was accompanied by some national officers and officials of the Lagos State council of the union.

Some of these are the National President, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Ambali Akeem Olatunji; NLC Lagos State Chairman Funmi Sessi and NLC National Trustee, Akporeha Williams.

The delegation was received by senior editorial figures led by Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief Victor Ifijeh.

Ajaero, a former Labour reporter, who is one year old in office, described the visit as “home-coming”.

 

He said he would have visited media houses before now but for the pressure of office.

Although Labour was not opposed to a negotiated wage for workers, Ajaero said the prevailing economic realities informed its decision to put forward for negotiation the proposed N615,000 wage demand to the Federal Government’s Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage.

Labour made public the amount on May Day, saying it had tabled it before the Tripartite Committee, whose meetings are ongoing to reach an agreement on the minimum wage.

Ajaero said there were misconceptions about the proposal, but the NLC was left with no other choice than to arrive at the figure based on prevailing economic indices and realities to make life better for Nigerian workers.

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“We presented N615,000 as minimum wage to the Federal Government. But if you ask us to present again today, it is going to increase because when we were presenting that figure, things like electricity tariff had not increased. And there was no cybersecurity levy,” he said, asking: “Where are we going to get money to pay for these?”

Ajaero said this was why the NLC gave the Federal Government, through the Tripartite Committee, a proviso that “If the indices remain the way they are, this N615,000 demand stands, but if they come down as we are negotiating, we will look at it.”

Explaining how NLC arrived at the N615,000 minimum wage, Ajaero said: “We looked at accommodation, food, medicals, education, and other utilities. We didn’t make provisions for communication, offerings, tithes and the like. Those are some of the things we took into cognisance before we arrived at N615,000.”

On accommodation, for instance, Ajaero said the NLC pegged it at N40,000 for a room and parlour apartment for a family of husband and wife and four children.

“This means that if you have a grandmother or mother-in-law, you are on your own because we did not calculate those,” he said.

NLC calculated feeding based on N500 per person per meal for a family of six.

“So, N500 per person is N1,500 per person in a day. For six tables in a month, we are going to have N270,000 for feeding,” he said, adding that N50,000 is for education and medicals each, assuming a worker does not go for surgery or send his or her children to private school, for instance.

For utilities like electricity bills and gas, Ajaero said while N20,000 was allocated to the former, even before the tariff increased, about N16,000 or N17,000 was for gas, which does not last for more than two weeks.

This, he said, means that in a month, some families buy gas at least twice, spending between N30,000 and N35,000.

“Based on our calculation, a worker is not supposed to own a car, not even a motorcycle, because he or she can’t fill a car tank with N30,000; he can’t service a vehicle,” Ajaero said.

He noted that these are some of the things the NLC took into consideration before coming up with N615,000.

“We have placed it (N615,000) wage demand before the government for negotiation because when there is an offer there is usually a counter-offer to say no, this one you are asking is out of it,” the labour leader said.

He pointed out that while inflation remained high, wages have also remained constant and all other costs are going up, whether it’s housing, transportation or school fees.

 

“If all these factors are checked, we will be arriving at another figure.”

The NLC boss also said the removal of petrol subsidy pushed up prices of goods and services across the country.

He said if the fuel subsidy was not removed, “probably we would have suggested N80,000 minimum wage.”

Asked about state governments not even paying the current N30,000 wage, and whether the Federal Government can afford the proposed N615,000, Ajaero was emphatic.

“States can pay if they get their priorities right,” he said, noting that it’s only a few state governments that are not paying the N30,000.

He said: “I think a few state governments are not paying; just very few or some are paying in breaches.

“But on the issue of whether the states can pay, yes, they can if they get their priorities right.

“In fact, National Assembly’s wages have almost tripled. If you come to an economy and we are having this argument of affordability, everybody must be disciplined.”

Besides, he argued that the issue of minimum wage is a benchmark and a product of legislation such that if left open, some states will not even pay N10,000.

“If this N30,000 was not a product of legislation, the state governments that have been kicking that minimum wage be sent into the concurrent list so that they can decide whether to pay N5,000 or not would have succeeded,” he said.

Ajaero, however, said all over the world, it is called minimum.

In other words, states are supposed to pay beyond the minimum.

“If you check states like Edo, while some are paying N30,000, they are paying N40,000; some others are paying N35,000. Most states are paying more than N30,000,” he said.

He also pointed out that when this same complaint about the payment of 30,000 came up during former President Muhammadu Buhari’s era and he released money from the Sovereign Wealth Fund for state governors to pay salaries, they did not use it for the purpose but diverted it.

On the ongoing negotiations at the Tripartite Committee, made up of Federal/state government officials, labour unions and the organised private sector, Ajaero said the labour centres were asked to harmonise their positions, which he said had been done.

He said another meeting of the committee had been fixed for May 15. It will be held via Zoom.

He expressed reservations about using Zoom for such a serious negotiation, saying many factors could make it inappropriate.

He also said if the Federal Government makes good its promise to provide Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses, which, according to him, is not rocket science as it only requires a conversion kit to switch over to PMS, transportation costs will significantly reduce.

“If we had achieved that, you don’t need to tell anybody and you will see that transportation will just crash. Transportation is central to our demand.

“If CNG buses are put in place, we won’t be talking about this. We are looking at it holistically. If all this is done, Nigerians will live happily,” Ajaero said.

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