FG Justifies Proposed N60,000 New Minimum Wage, Labour Declares Nationwide Strike Monday

*Govt insists offer aligns with economic reality

*Organised private sector expresses concern over lack of consensus on negotiation
*Says labour’s demand has potential to cripple businesses

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos

The federal government yesterday, defended its position on the proposed N60,000 minimum wage it had offered the organised labour through the Minimum Wage Committee led by Bukar Goni Aji.

But despite the position of the committee set up by the government, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) yesterday, resolved to commence a nationwide industrial action by midnight of Sunday to protest what they termed the non-resolution of the disagreement on a new national minimum wage.

This comes as the organised private sector of Nigeria (OPSN) yesterday expressed serious concern over the inability of the committee to achieve a consensus on a new national minimum wage.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on the stalemated negotiation on the new minimum, the leadership of NLC and TUC described the attitude of government to the talks as unserious.
TUC President, Festus Osifo, who read the resolution of the labour movement said  there was poor representation of the federal government team at the resumed meeting despite the sensitiveness of the issues at stake.

He said the lean government side lead by the Minister of State Nkeiruka Onyejeocha only came to insist on N60,000 proposed previously as new minimum wage that had been rejected by labour.
Osifo said based on the mandate given to the leadership of the organised labour by their organs, there was nothing else to do other than to declare an indefinite strike to bring government to order.

“If you could remember we had a National Executive Council meeting of the NLC as well as the TUC where we were further charged that the leadership should take charge and take all actions to call government to order at the expiration of the ultimatum.
“Today is May 31, 2024 and this night the ultimatum expires. So we hereby declare the commencement of a nationwide Industrial action effective from Monday June 3rd, 2024 and this strike shall be indefinite. The strike shall be on untill we have a new national minimum wage and until government is serious and the increase in electricity tariff is reversed.

“In the light of this persistent inaction, we, the NLC and the TUC, hereby issue a notice of commencement of an indefinite nationwide strike to the federal government. We reiterate that since the National Minimum Wage negotiation exercise has not been concluded and the agreed wage passed into law; the hike in electricity tariff not reversed and categorization of consumers into Bands not stopped as demanded.

“Nigerian workers are compelled by these failures to embark on an indefinite nationwide industrial action beginning on Monday, the 3rd of June, 2024 to press home our demands. We are united on this and we believe this is the way forward. He said that organised labour believed that this the time to stand in solidarity with the working class because they have been battered and have been downtrodden the way they have been treated from May 29 till date,” he said.

The Labour movement expressed regret that there had been no significant progress or commitment from the government towards meeting its demand.
However, while justifying its position, the minimum wage committee explained what transpired during the meeting yesterday, saying the government team tried to convince labour movement on efforts being made by the federal government to ameliorate the impact of fuel subsidy removal.

It explained that at the last meeting of Tuesday, 28th May, 2024, all employers made up of government side and organised private sector made offers of N60,000.00 per month which was a 100 percent increase on the existing National Minimum Wage of 2019.
The committee said the organised labour made an offer of N494,000 per month at Tuesday’s meeting which was an increase of 1,547 percent on the existing National Minimum Wage of 2019.

It further explained that during the course of the meeting organised labour left to continue further consultations on whether to shift grounds or not.
On the complaint that the federal government presented a deflated team during yesterday’s negotiation, the Committee said it’s decisions were arrived at the meeting with full attendance including the personal attendance of the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Minister of Budget and National Planning as well as Minister of State for Labour and Employment.

The committee said the meeting was later adjourned to Monday, 3rd June 2024.
“Both sides stated that their offers of N60,000.00 per month, which is 100% increase on the existing National Minimum Wage of 2019, were based on prevailing economic considerations and government’s non-monetary incentives.
“Thereafter organised labour walked out of the meeting. During the continuation of the meeting the government further defended their offer of N60,000.00 per month, saying it was based on economic considerations and non-monetary incentives.”

It listed other measures introduced by the government to cushion the impact of the fuel subsidy removal on the masses.
Meanwhile, the OPSN has expressed concern over the inability of the committee to achieve a consensus on a new national minimum wage.
The OPSN is made up of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), National Association of Small Scale Industries (NASME) and National Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI).

Speaking in Lagos, the Director General of NECA, Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, stated that “the OPSN had approached the minimum wage negotiation hoping that current economic realities as it concerns the need to protect jobs and ensure sustained growth would play a paramount role. However, this was not the case.”
Oyerinde , who is also the OPSN’s spokesperson on the minimum wage negotiation, clarified that the committee was set up to negotiate a new minimum wage and not a living wage and salary  adjustments.

According to him, the minimum wage is the wage that no employer should pay less than, either in the private or public sector.
 He said: “Our position was informed by the need to arrest the ongoing job losses and continuous shut-down of businesses in Nigeria. It is important to state that jobs can only be guaranteed when businesses are alive and sustainable.”

Speaking further on the walkout and declaration of strike by organised labour, the director general of NECA noted that, “while it is within the right of organised labour to embark on any action it deems fit and necessary to achieve its objectives, the organised businesses will also, within extant legislation do all that is necessary to protect enterprise sustainability and protect jobs.

“It is no secret that organised businesses are currently faced with multidimensional challenges ranging from multiple taxes, levies and fees, recent astronomical power costs, rising interest rates and exchange rates amongst many others.

“The offer of N60,000, which is a 100 per cent increase in the current national minimum wage was sacrificial on the part of the organised private sector.”

He added: “While it is important to note that socio-economic conditions over the years have rendered the N30,000 minimum wage inadequate, the same conditions have incapacitated many businesses, fatally affecting their sustainability and ability to pay.

“The demand by organised labour at this period has the potential to cripple small and medium enterprises and push many other businesses into comatose.”

Proffering solution to the quagmire, Oyerinde stated that “it is important to strike a balance between workers’ needs, the current economic situation, ability to pay and productivity.

“At N30,000 per month, many state and local governments are unable to pay. Therefore, an astronomical increase as being demanded will make compliance practically impossible.”

He also urged government to fast-track the implementation of its interventions to make life more bearable for workers, businesses, and Nigerians in general.

He emphasised that “any disruption of organized businesses’ activities could have serious consequences on job security and the sustainability of businesses.

“Businesses need to be alive and stay sustainable for jobs to be created and for government to generate taxes.”

Related Articles