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Labour vows to reject N100,000 minimum wage, may resume strike

THE Organised Labour has stated that it will not accept the ₦62,000 or ₦100,000 “starvation wage” as the minimum wage for Nigerian workers.

Labour reaffirmed its stance on the demand for a ₦250,000 minimum wage for Nigerian workers during the recent meeting of the Tripartite Committee on Minimum Wage.

An Assistant General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Chris Onyeka, maintained that they will not settle for the government’s proposed ₦62,000 or the ₦100,000 suggested by certain groups and economists.

He highlighted the importance of a wage that adequately supports the needs of workers in the face of market realities and everyday expenses.

Furthermore, Labour had set a deadline for the Federal Government to respond to their demands which would expire by the midnight of Tuesday, June 11, 2024.

Onyeka noted that if the government fails to act, the NLC and TUC are prepared to discuss the resumption of nationwide industrial action.

Onyeka reiterated that the decision lies with the government and the National Assembly to address the workers’ demands and pass a National Minimum Act that aligns with Labour’s expectations.

The NLC Official said, “The Federal Government and the National Assembly have the call now. It is not our call. Our demand is there for them (the government) to look at and send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly, and for the National Assembly to look at what we have demanded, the various fact of the law, and then come up with a National Minimum Act that meets our demands.

“If that does not meet our demand, we have given the Federal Government a one-week notice to look at the issues and that one week expires tomorrow (Tuesday). If after tomorrow, we have not seen any tangible response from the government, the organs of the Organised Labour will meet to decide on what next.”

When asked what the decision of Labour would be should the government insists on ₦62,000, he said, “It was clear what we said. We said we are relaxing a nationwide indefinite strike. It’s like putting a pause on it. So, if you put a pause on something and that organs that govern us as trade unions decide that we should remove that pause, it means that we go back to what was in existence before.”

Following weeks of fruitless talks on a higher minimum wage for workers in the country, Labour had called for an indefinite strike on Monday, June 3, 2024. Businesses were halted when workers shut down airports, hospitals, the national grid, banks, the National Assembly, and state assembly buildings.

Labour unions maintained that the current minimum wage of ₦30,000 is insufficient for the well-being of Nigerian workers due to inflationary pressures and the administration’s policies of removing petrol subsidies and unifying the forex windows.

The labour unions also expressed concern that not all governors are paying the current wage award, which expired in April 2024, five years after former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Minimum Wage Act of 2019. The Act is meant to be revised every five years to ensure that it meets the current economic demands of workers.

In January, President Bola Tinubu established a tripartite committee to negotiate the country’s new minimum wage.

During discussions, Labour initially proposed a minimum wage of ₦615,000, but later reduced it to ₦497,000 and finally ₦494,000.

Initially, the government and the organised private sector proposed ₦48,000, ₦54,000, ₦57,000, and later ₦60,000. However, all four offers were rejected by Labour, leading to the strike.

Meanwhile, on Monday, June 3, 2024, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), George Akume, stated that the President was committed to a wage above ₦60,000 and that the government side of the tripartite committee would meet with labour for one week to reach an agreement.

Persuaded, labour “relaxed” its industrial action on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, approximately 24 hours following the strike. The TUC and NLC leadership then resumed talks with officials from the Federal Government, states, and the Organised Private Sector.

The President also asked Wale Edun, Minister of Finance, to propose a framework for a new minimum wage.
Prior to the directive, the minister branded the worker demands as “unaffordable.” Furthermore, the 36 state governors stated that labour’s demands were unsustainable.

However, on Friday, June 7, 2024, the two sides (labour and government) were unable to strike a deal. The labour demand reduced from ₦494,000 to ₦250,000, while the government increased the initial ₦60,000 offer by ₦2,000 to ₦62,000.

Both parties filed reports to the President, who is anticipated to make a choice and send an executive bill to the National Assembly to enact a new minimum wage bill, which the President will sign into law.

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