House to FG: Consider Fixing Realistic Living Wage for Workers

•Labour defends N494,000 demand

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Emma Okonji in Lagos

The House of Representatives has called on the federal government to redirect the focus of the negotiations from fixing a new minimum wage to fixing a realistic living wage for Nigerians.

The resolution of the House followed the adoption of a motion on urgent need to consider the imperativeness of fixing a living wage for Nigerian workers in order to ameliorate current economic hardship.

Presenting the motion at plenary yesterday, Minority Whip, Hon. Isa Ali, was of the opinion that global economic outlook as well as recent socio-economic policies of government resulted in inflation, increase in electricity tariff, currency devaluation and other diverse economic consequences especially for Nigerian workers.

The lawmaker noted that the federal government had been locked in negotiations with labour unions towards the upward review of the minimum wage for some time, without any agreement, leading to a recent interruption in the negotiations.

Ali, commended the federal government for showing absolute commitment by imploring the labour unions to return to the negotiation table.

He recalled that the National Assembly repealed and enacted the national minimum wage Act 2019 to fix the minimum wage at N30,000 even when the Executive arm had suggested N27, 000 at the time.

Ali, said in line with Section 3(4) of the Act, the extant minimum wage which commenced on April 18, 2019, expired after five years on April 18, 2024, thereby calling for a further review of the existing Act.

He pointed out that the implication of payment of N35,000 wage award by the federal government to public servants as one of the ways of cushioning the effects of current economic hardship, including the May 1 pronouncement of percentage increases in salaries of civil servants for the time being, increased the minimum wage to N87 000.

The lawmaker stressed that the organised labour demanded for a living wage as against the minimum wage to meet today’s economic realities

The House commended organised labour for their commitment towards negotiating a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers at this very critical period and resolve to call off the strike in the interim.

The House, therefore, urged “government to redirect the focus of the negotiations from fixing a new minimum wage to fixing a realistic living wage for Nigerians.”

It further called on the government to further consider the downward review of electricity tariff, to reduce the suffering of Nigerians.

Meanwhile, following the directives of President Bola Tinubu to the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun, to within 48 hours, come up with the cost implications of an affordable minimum wage for the Nigerian workers, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has defended its proposed N494,000 minimum wage, insisting its affordable and of global standard.

Head of NLC, Political Wing, Prof. Theophilus Ndubuaku, who defended it yesterday, while speaking as a guest on ‘The Morning Show’ on ARISE NEWS Channels, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said if the state governments were rich enough to build airports and the federal government was also rich enough to plan the construction of coastal roads when it refused to maintain existing federal road networks across the country, then they should be able to pay N494,000 as minimum wage to Nigerian workers.

Giving statistics on how the organised labour arrived at the N494,000 minimum wage, Ndubuaku said he was part of a research group that did a recent survey to find out the implementation level of the N30,000 minimum wage of 2018, and it was discovered that some governors were not implementing it while others were implementing it.

He also said the survey group was able to find out from sampled households on what their daily and monthly expenditures were, and it was also discovered that workerss spend so much to maintain their families under the current economic situation of the country.

“Based on our findings, we came up with the minimum wage of N615,500 but later reduced it to N494,000 after the negotiation between the organised labour and the federal government. Again, based on the global standard on minimum wage, an average worker needs a minimum of N540,000 for a family of six to live above poverty line,” Ndubuaku said.

He also said the Nigerian government would continue to experience low productivity, when the current minimum wage cannot sustain a family of six, a development he said, was responsible for the reason why civil servants go late to work on a daily basis and why some decided not to go to work on a daily basis, because they cannot afford the high cost of transportation. He therefore called on the federal and state governments to address the issue of high cost of living and infrastructure challenges across the country, which he said, were affecting low income earners to a great extent. He also said the private sector needed the support of government to enable it operate maximally. He said civil servants attend the same public markets with other highly placed government workers and should be giving the opportunity to live well.  

Contrary to the views of NLC on minimum wage, a former Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, who also spoke yesterday on ARISE NEWS Channels, said the N494,000 being proposed by organised labour as minimum wage, was not realistic, insisting that such increase would further bring about low productivity and further plunge the civil servants into deeper poverty.       

According to him, the government should focus more on boosting productivity level of workers, rather than increasing salaries, which he said would lead to inflation, where there would be too much money in circulation with less supply of products and commodities.

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