Govt’s N48,000 offer breaks up new minimum wage talks

Labour yesterday walked out of the national minimum wage talks after the Federal Government proposed N48,000 per month.

It said the offer amounted to a salary reduction and nowhere near a living wage.

Labour insisted the sum does not even come close to the N77,000 that federal-level workers currently take home, which includes N30,000 as mandated by law, N12,000 peculiar allowance and N35,000 wage award.

The government’s position was presented to Labour at a virtual meeting of the tripartite committee on the new minimum wage.

In protest, the two labour centres – the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) – foisted a deadlock.

Vice President Kashim Shettima on January 30 inaugurated the 37-member tripartite committee on new minimum wage.

The committee comprises representatives of the federal and state governments, the private sector, and Labour.

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It is chaired by a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Goni Aji.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on May Day promised workers a living wage.

NLC and TUC proposed N615,000, citing the high cost of living.

In a joint statement yesterday, President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero and Deputy President of the TUC, Tommy Okon, said the wage proposal by the government was “not just a mockery but an insult to workers dignity.”

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During yesterday’s meeting, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), which had earlier stated that the least worker in the private sector was paid N78,000, proposed N54,000.

Labour said it was disappointing that the government was proposing a wage reduction instead of an increment.

In the statement entitled: “Minimum Wage: government presents wage reduction,” the two labour leaders said: “We are disappointed as negotiations at the Tripartite National Minimum Wage resumed today (yesterday) but reached an unfortunate impasse as a result of the apparent unseriousness of the government to engage in reasonable negotiation with Nigerian workers.

“Despite earnest efforts to reach an equitable agreement, the less than reasonable action of the Government and the Organised Private Sector (OPS) has led to a breakdown in negotiations.

“The government’s proposal of a paltry N48,000 as the minimum wage does not only insult the sensibilities of Nigerian workers but also falls significantly short of meeting our needs and aspirations.

“In contrast, the OPS proposed an initial offer of N54,000, though it is worth noting that even the least paid workers in the private sector receive N78,000 as clearly stated by the OPS.

“This highlights the stark disparity between the proposed minimum wage and prevailing standards and further demonstrates the unwillingness of employers and government to faithfully negotiate a fair national minimum wage for workers in Nigeria.

“The government’s failure to provide any substantiated data to support their offer exacerbates the situation.

“This lack of transparency and good faith undermines the credibility of the negotiation process and erodes trust between the parties involved.

“As representatives of Nigerian workers, we cannot in good conscience accept a wage proposal that would result in a reduction in income for federal-level workers who are already receiving N30,000 as mandated by law, augmented by Buhari’s 40 per cent peculiar allowance (N12,000) and the N35,000 wage award, totalling N77,000 only.

“Such a regressive step would undermine the economic well-being of workers and their families and is unacceptable in a national minimum wage fixing process.

“In light of these developments, and in order to prevent the negotiation of a wage deduction, the NLC and TUC have taken the decision to walk out of the negotiation process.”

The labour centres said they remained committed to advocating for the rights and interests of Nigerian workers.

They said they would continue to engage in reasonable dialogue with the government if there is evidence of serious commitment to finding a fair and sustainable resolution to the impasse.

“We call upon the government to reconsider its position and come to the negotiation table with clear hands that reflect the true value of the contributions made by Nigerian workers to the nation’s development and the socioeconomic realities that confront not just Nigerian workers but Nigerians today as a result of the policies of the Federal Government.

“Together, in a reasonable dialogue, we can work to give Nigerian workers a N615,000 National Minimum wage as proposed by us on the basis of evidence and data.

“This will be in keeping with His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s pledge to ensure a living wage for Nigerian workers,” NLC and TUC added.

<<The Nation>>