Labour Unions Exit Minimum Wage Talks Over FG’s “Ridiculous” Offer

By Joke Kujenya

LABOUR UNIONS, encompassing the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), abruptly exited the ongoing minimum wage negotiations with the Federal Government on Wednesday.

This development followed the FG’s proposal of a new minimum wage of N48,000, an offer labour representatives derided as ‘ridiculous.’

The Organized Private Sector (OPS) had suggested a slightly higher wage of N54,000, but noted that none of its members currently pays less than N78,000. The federal government, however, did not present supporting data for its proposal, unlike the Organized Labour.

Confirming the walkout, NLC spokesperson Benson Upah stated, “Yes, we are out. We are about to address the press and details will be given then.”

The contentious meeting took place amid a backdrop of heightened expectations from Labour, which had earlier demanded a minimum wage of N615,000. They set a deadline of May 31 for the government to finalize negotiations.

Professor Theophilus Ndubuaku, an NLC representative, expressed frustration over the Federal Government’s stance. “We asked whether the N48,000 is for transport, food, clothing, housing, or for what. Since they are not serious, we better just leave, so we stormed out of the place,” he remarked.

The proposal was delivered by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. NLC President Joe Ajaero highlighted the government’s lack of serious engagement and failure to present necessary data to substantiate their offer. He reiterated that the Labour has set an ultimatum for the end of the month, beyond which they will make a decisive move.

A joint statement by Ajaero and TUC Deputy President Mr. Tommy Okon criticized the government’s offer, emphasizing that it was not only insulting to Nigerian workers but also grossly insufficient to meet their needs. They pointed out the significant discrepancy between the government’s offer and the private sector’s prevailing minimum wage.

“The government’s proposal of 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. The OPS proposed N54,000, though the least paid workers in the private sector receive N78,000 per month,” the statement read.

The statement also condemned the government’s failure to provide transparent data to support its proposal, asserting that this lack of transparency undermines the credibility of the negotiation process.

Representatives of Organized Labour stressed that accepting the government’s proposal would effectively reduce the income for federal workers, who currently receive a combination of N30,000 mandated by law, a 40% Peculiar Allowance of N12,000, and a N35,000 wage award, totaling N77,000.

Labour unions previously proposed a new minimum wage of N615,000, citing the high cost of living as justification. This demand was based on extensive consultations between the NLC and TUC, according to NLC President Joe Ajaero. They argue that the current minimum wage of N30,000 is inadequate and not all state governors are adhering to it.

In January, the FG inaugurated a 37-member Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage to recommend a new wage level. The NLC had initially proposed N1 million as the new minimum wage, reflecting the country’s rising inflation and increasing poverty levels.

With the negotiations at an impasse, Organized Labour’s exit from the talks signals a critical juncture in the push for a living wage in Nigeria as the unions have made it clear that without a satisfactory resolution by the end of May, they will take further action, it was reaffirmed.

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