Minimum wage: What is in it for workers as negotiations begin?

Supreme Desk
9 Feb 2024 9:52 AM GMT
Minimum wage: What is in it for workers as negotiations begin?
President Bola Tinubu says he is aware of workers predicament and in his New Year message, assured them that his administration would implement a new national minimum wage to ease their plight.

It is no longer news that the take home of the average Nigerian worker can no longer take him or her home.

The purchasing power of workers in the country is seriously eroded by the high rate of inflation, and free fall of Naira against foreign currencies, thus causing hardship for workers and other citizens.

The N30, 000 minimum wage which has been around for about five years now has been thoroughly diminished to the extent that workers now leave from hand to mouth.

The purchasing power of the average Nigerian worker is at all-time low, exacerbated by fuel subsidy removal which has tripled the cost of transportation and food items has not helped matters.

President Bola Tinubu says he is aware of workers predicament and in his New Year message, assured them that his administration would implement a new national minimum wage to ease their plight.

Tinubu said that this was to ensure that the government’s impact was felt by every Nigerian, with a specific focus on addressing the economic needs and well-being of the poor, vulnerable, and working-class citizens.

According to him, the economic aspirations and the material well-being of the poor, the most vulnerable and the working people shall not be neglected.

“It is in this spirit that we are going to implement a new national living wage for our industrious workers this New Year.

“It is not only good economics to do this, it is also a morally and politically correct thing to do,” he said.

In January, the president matched words with action with through the inauguration of 37-man tripartite committee on national minimum wage in line with the provision of Wage Instrument Act 2019 which stipulates review of the minimum wage at five years interval.

Headed by a former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Bukar Aji, the committee’s membership is drawn from across federal and state governments, private sector employers and the organised labour

“Our sense of duty today thrives on both our sensitivity to the conditions of the Nigerian worker and the impending expiration of the last Minimum Wage Instrument in a few months.

“It is in recognition of the need to ensure a fair and decent living wage, and in compliance with the Act, that the Federal Government has set in motion necessary mechanisms to assemble this tripartite Committee to chart a future that aligns with our collective interests’’, he said.

Tinubu was represented at the event by his vice, Kashim Shettima.

As the newly inaugurated minimum wage committee swings into action Nigerian workers have expressed high hope the new minimum wage will be commiserate with the nation’s current economic realities.

Mrs Victoria Idoko, a worker, said that the increase in the pump price of petroleum and devaluation of the Naira had massively affected the cost of living.

According to her, the exchange rate and inflation has continued to raise all the time higher, rendering the N30, 000 national minimum wage is unsustainable as a basis.

“Government must acknowledge this fact that there is hardship and ensure that the committee comes up with a fair, realistic and decent living wage for the Nigerian workers,” she told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Also, Mr Charlie Johnson, a civil servant, said it was important for the committee to complete its deliberations at a reasonable time and submit its reports and recommendations as soon as possible.

This, Johnson said, would enable other requisite machinery to be set in motion for the implantation of the new national minimum wage.

“I want to urge the Federal Government, the committee on the new national minimum wage not to foot- drag on the deliberation processes as workers are suffering due to high cost of living,” he said.

A worker, Mr Gambo Haruna, urged organised that given to the current realities of the economic to negotiate above N200, 000 as a living wage.

According to Haruna, labour leaders should go into the deliberation well-prepared because workers expect their salaries to meet their needs.

“Fuel and food items are taking large chunk of the salaries of workers; the transportation is very costly.

“The federal government had earlier said that due to the removal of fuel subsidy it will make CNG buses available but up till now we are yet to see the buses.

“If the buses can be made available, the high cost of transportation will be brought to the barest minimum.

“This will go a long way in cushioning the effect of the challenges that Nigerian workers are going through,” he said.

Dr Tommy Okon, National President, Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN) said the informal economy was the worst hit by the economic challenges.

Okon, also a member of the Tripartite Committee, said organised labour would push for a living wage taken cognisance of the cost of transportation, accommodation, school fees, and health, among others.

“When the fuel subsidy was removed, labour was looking at N200, 000 as a minimum wage but as we speak, that has already been overtaken by the social economic challenges.

“These challenges include inflation and devaluation of naira so that amount is no longer attainable.

“We will negotiate as a team, I do not want to guess but these are indices that would form our submission and what we would be demanding as far as national minimum wage is concern,” another worker said.

Mr Olawale Oyerinde, Director-General, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and a member of the committee on National Minimum Wage, representing the private sector said the deliberation would be with open mind.

Oyerinde said the private sector would deliberate with all commitment in order to have a seamless and a fruitful conclusion that would be favorable for all.

“We will ensure that it will be a win-win for employers, labour and the government.

“We will also ensure that we follow what the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 131 on Minimum Wage Fixing stipulated,” he said.

To this end workers urge their negotiators to consult widely before arriving at a figure that would truly compensate for their contributions to nation building.

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