Minimum wage: Labour Warns of Returning To Trenches

 By Elizabeth Chukwuma

 Those who thinks that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator George Akume, a former governor of Benue state and Secretary to Government of the Federation may have succeeded in winning the hearts of the Labour Leaders to accept the national minimum wage that may be proposed by the government at the Tripartite Committee in their upcoming meetings may be disappointed.

The Leadership of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, and Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, who may have temporarily called off the strike, barely 24 hours, it was declared because Akume, Secretary to the Government of the Federation at a closed – door meeting with them at the instance of the President had said that the former Lagos state governor ‘’is committed to a national minimum wage that is higher than N60.000.00’’.

At the meeting on Friday, May 31, 2024, the tripartite Committee   had said that  they would  not add  anything  to the N60,000.00  that had been proposed by the government  but in the meeting with the Labour Leaders  on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, the former Benue state  governor , who appears to have spoken the mind of the Nigerian President  had said that the Lagos state born Nigerian President  was able to commit  to paying  a national minimum wage of above N60,000.00.

Jaero: NLC, president

Festus Osifo, President, TUC, and other Labour Leaders, including Joe Ajaero,  President, NLC, who were said to be at the all-important meeting with Akume, the SFG, and who  are expected in turn to pass the information to their members  meet their members for considereation  had promised to do so. 

The Organised Labour Leaders, may have dropped a hint that they would not accept hook, Line and sinker, any national minimum wage  that is ‘’below a living wage’’ , meaning that they are set  to go back to the trenches if Federal Government fail to meet their demand.

They may have been guided to remain focused in their minimum wage deamand because of what is paid in other United Nation’s member countries as minimum wage per month. Take for instance in  Netherland,  the country’s  minimum wage is the North American country of the United States, US, $2,425, New Zealand, US$2,3335 per,Australia, $2,269, United Kingdom, UK, $2,440, which is the national living wage per month, Belgium, ,$2,171,  Canada, $2,885, France, $1,918 and the US, 2,735.

Many believe that the National Assembly Lawmakers may have emboldened the Leadership of the Organised Labour to ask for a living wage for workers because of the huge salary and allowances earned by the Lawmakers on a monthly basis.  The argument in Labour circles was that  if the ‘s yearly  budgetary provisions since 1999, could accommodate the heavy monthly salary and allowances of the Senators and the House members, put at US $2,183,685   or N356,56,988.00, the Nigeria worker  also deserves a living wage.

Comrade Osifo: TUC, President

Osifo,  the TUC, president  may have sent a message to the Nigerian President and his think-tanks that  that  they may me forced to go back to the trenches if what may be added  by the tripartite Committee to the government earlier proposed N60,000.00 national minimum was not reasonable enough. .

The TUC, who had said to that Labour has agreed to go back to the Round Table talks on the new national minimum wage which they have earlier abandoned because they found out that the Committee were acting out a script.

 He had said that the Committee had offered labour N48,000.00  as what the government can pay as the new   national minimum wage,  but was increased to  N54,000.00 and N57,000.00, but was turned down, as it  was not  in the best interest of Labour.  

Osifo, the TUC, president , may have made Nigerians to understand  that the Organised Labour   is not  fixated  on the N494,000.00  as the country’s   new national minimum wage for workers   but’’ to force  the tripartite  Committee  to show  some seriousness  and offer  worker  something that is  economically realistic  in tandem  with current  inflammatory pressures’’.

Orgagised Labour

He may have clue to what should be the country’s new national minimum wage when he opined that it should be equal in purchasing power to the value of N30,000.00 in 2019 and N18,000.00 in 2014. The tripartite Committee may not take it because of the current  exchange rate of the naira to the North American country of the United States dollar in both the Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market, AFEM and the Parallel, popular, Black Market  which is about N1,500.00 to the dollar.  

The Nigerian President may have known that any attempt by the tripartite  Committee on the new national minimum wage  not to show  some level of seriousness in tackling the Labour’s demand and for them to go back to the trenches may worsen  the country’s economic activities  that he has asked Wale Edun, minister of Finance and Coordinating minister of the economy,  to prepare a template  for  a new national minimum wage  between Tuesday, June 4, 2024 and Wednesday, June 5, 2024 , to be presented to Labour at their next  meeting for Negotiation.

Akpabio: Senate President, urges FG, expedite action on minimum wage

Godswill Akpabio, immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom state and now Senate President had alluded to the shutdown of the National Grid and disruption of Hajj and other international and local flights, among other actions that that were said to have been taken by the striking unions   during the nationwide strike for a new national minimum wage that had lasted 24 hours.  The Senate President was aid to have called on the Federal Government ‘’to expedite action on the new minimum wage to avoid giving room to the striking unions to continue the industrial action.

He has given his words to the President that National Assembly would continue to do its best to dialogue with Labour while awaiting for the new minimum wage bill for enactment before the aggrieved workers throw the entire country into crisis.

This may have informed why the Senators who were not happy that the National Grid was shut down and which which  had plunged the country into darkness. As a prelude to ensuring that the issue of the national minimum  wage was settled once and for all, to give the Tinubu’s government room to execute its 2023, electioneering Campaign promises,  may have informed  why he  had summoned a crucial meeting  of all those  who  had participated in the tripartite Committee  mandated to fix a new  national  minimum wage for the country.

There are indications that Edun, the minister of Finance, minister of Budge and National Planning, Nkiruka Onyejeocha, minister of Labour and Employment and Mele Kolo Kyari, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, now baptized, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NPCL, with the signing into Law of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, by former President Buhari, in August 2021.

Edun, minister of Finance && Coordination minister of Economy, asked to draw a template on minimum wage by Tinubu

Mohammed Idris, minister of Information and National Orientation had said that the President is determined to go with the recommendations of the tripartite Committee after Negotiations with Labour to avoid throwing the economy into crisis.

The Nigerian President  may have had the back of his mind the billions of US, dollars , for the only one day, that the workers  went on strike, which if it had continued would have finally collapsed the economy beyond going to be  revived by the Administration.

Appearing on Channels Television ‘s Politics  Today, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, Osifo, the TUC, president, had said that the one-day embarked upon by the workers over their demand for  a living new national minimum wage   has drawn the government attention’s attention to the plight of Nigerian  workers because of the current economic situation: removal of fuel subsidy and unification of the official and parallel foreign exchange market, which h had up to prices of goods and services , including transportation costs.  

He was emphatic that  the 24-hour Labour strike  has achieved one major objective as ‘’it has woken  everyone  in the country  to demand of workers  and that  when it comes  to  of Labou any issue  affecting Labour, it must be  taken  much more  seriously and treated  with  a wave of hands’’.

Going by the President’s directive to the tripartite Committee, between now and next week, the entire ateention of the Committee would be focused on Labour. ‘’That is what we were trying to achieve and we have achieve it’’, Osifo had said.

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