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Minimum wage: Labour meets ahead of Tuesday’s negotiations, insists on May 31 deadline

Sources with knowledge of the situation told our correspondent in Abuja that the Organised Labour, which is made up of the Trade Union Congress and the Nigeria Labour Congress, met today (Monday) in preparation for tomorrow’s (Tuesday) meeting with the tripartite committee on minimum wage.

The unionists decided to “stand on business” in reference to the May 31, 2024 deadline during the meeting.

The source, who is a member of the minimum wage committee, stated, “We met today, and one of the resolutions is that we are not shifting grounds on the May 31 deadline.”

The Chairman of the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage, Alhaji Bukar Goni, indicated in a letter of invitation to labour leaders that negotiations will continue on Tuesday (Tomorrow).

His letter came 24 hours after the leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress walked out on the minimum wage negotiation committee after the Federal Government offered to pay N48,000 as the new minimum wage.

The organised private Sector, on the other hand, proposed an initial offer of N54,000. After dumping the talks, the labour leaders addressed a press conference where they expressed their anger over the Federal Government’s offer.

The National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, insisted on N615,000 minimum wage, arguing that the amount was arrived at after an analysis of the current economic situation and the needs of an average Nigerian family of six.

He blamed the government and the OPS for the breakdown in negotiation, saying, “Despite earnest efforts to reach an equitable agreement, the less than reasonable action of the Government and the Organised Private Sector has led to a breakdown in negotiations.”

But speaking on behalf of the OPS, the Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, Mr Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, described unions’ walkout when negotiation had not started as unfortunate.

The NECA DG admonished the union leaders to reconsider their position and return to the negotiation table in the interest of their members and national development.

However, Ajaero justified their decision to abandon the negotiation, saying, “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.

“Though it is worth noting that even the least paid workers in the private sector receive N78,000 as clearly stated by the OPS, highlighting the stark disparity between the proposed minimum wage and prevailing standards further demonstrating the unwillingness of employers and Government to faithfully negotiate a fair national minimum wage for workers in Nigeria.’’

He accused the government of failing to provide data to support its offer, noting that this undermined the credibility of the negotiation.

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“Furthermore, 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.

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The NLC president noted that the unions remained committed to fighting for the rights and interests of Nigerian workers.

He also called on 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 objective socioeconomic realities that confront not just Nigerian workers but Nigerians today as a result of the policies of the Federal Government.”

President Tinubu, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, on January 30, 2024, inaugurated the 37-member Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage to come up with a new minimum wage ahead of the expiration of the current N30,000 wage on April 18.

With its membership cutting across federal and state governments, the private sector and organised labour, the panel is to recommend a new national minimum wage for the country.

During the inauguration of the panel, Shettima urged the members to “speedily” arrive at a resolution and submit their reports early.

“This timely submission is crucial to ensure the emergence of a new minimum wage,” Shettima said.

In furtherance of its assignment, a zonal public hearing was held simultaneously on March 7 in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja.

The NLC and the TUC in different states proposed various figures as a living wage, referencing the current economic crunch and the high costs of living.

In their different proposals on the minimum wage, the NLC members in the South-West states demanded N794,000 as the TUC suggested N447,000.

At the North-Central zonal hearing in Abuja, the workers demanded N709,000 as the new national minimum wage, while their counterparts in the South-South clamoured for N850,000.

In the North-West, N485,000 was proposed, while the South-East stakeholders demanded N540,000 minimum wage.

But organised labour settled for N615,000 as a living wage.

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