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Minimum Wage Negotiations Stall As Labour Leaders Reject, Express Disappointment In Government’s N48,000 Offer

Nigeria’s organised labour has pulled out of talks with the government after rejecting N48,000 minimum wage offer, citing economic realities.

Negotiations for a new minimum wage appeared to have hit the rocks with organised labour on Wednesday, saying they were pulling out of the engagement with the federal government following the offer of N48,000 minimum wage proposed by the government.

However, reacting to the walk-out by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) during the meeting of the National Minimum Wage Committee, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) urged the representatives of the organised labour to return to the negotiating table.

Earlier, addressing a press conference on Wednesday,  President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero and the Deputy President of the TUC, Etim Okon, said Nigerian workers would not accept N48,000 as new minimum wage being proposed by the federal government.

Government’s offer of N48,000 contrasted sharply to the N615,000 which organised labour had proposed as a living minimum wage for Nigerian workers.

Both labour leaders said the position of government does not reflect the economic reality and hardship the workers are currently facing in the country.

“The NLC and TUC express profound disappointment as negotiations at the Tripartite National Minimum Wage resumed today but reached an unfortunate impasse as result of the apparent unseriousness of the government to engage in reasonable negotiation with Nigerian workers.

“Despite earnest efforts to reach an equitable agreement, the less than reasonable action of the government and the organised private sector (OPS) has led to a breakdown in negotiations.

“The government’s proposal of a paltry 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.”

Ajaero said in contrast, the OPS proposed an initial offer of N54,000.

He however, noted that even the least paid workers in the private sector receives N78,000 as stated by the OPS.

According to Ajaero, the proposal by the private sector team highlighted the stark disparity between the proposed minimum wage and prevailing standards, further demonstrating the unwillingness of Employers and Government to faithfully negotiate a fair National Minimum Wage for Workers in Nigeria

He stressed that NECA revealed that although no one in the sector receives less than N78,000, but proposing a new minimum wage of N54,000 was apt considering prevailing factors.

NLC and TUC leadership further expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to provide any substantiated data to support their offer exacerbates the situation.

When asked their next line of action, both labour centres said the May 31 deadline they had issued on the May Day celebration stands, adding that they would summon their organs to a decision at the expiration of the deadline.

The labour leaders said there was an absolute lack of transparency and good faith by the government side, adding that the action was capable of undermining the credibility of the negotiation process and eroding trust between the parties involved.

“As representatives of Nigerian workers, we cannot in good conscience accept a wage proposal that would result in a reduction in income for federal-level workers who are already receiving N30,000 as mandated by law, augmented by Buhari’s 40 percent, Peculiar allowance (N12,000) and the N35,000 wage award, totaling N77,000 only.

“Such a regressive step would undermine the economic well-being of workers and their families and is unacceptable in a National Minimum Wage Fixing process.

“In light of these developments, and in order to prevent the negotiation of a wage deduction, the NLC and TUC have taken the decision to walk out of the negotiation process.

“We remain committed to advocating for the rights and interests of Nigerian workers and will continue to engage in reasonable dialogue with the government if they show serious commitment to find a fair and sustainable resolution to this impasse.

“We call upon the government to reconsider its position and come to the negotiation table with clear hands that reflects the true value of the contributions made by Nigerian workers to the nation’s development and the objective socioeconomic realities that confronts not just Nigerian workers but Nigerians today as a result of the policies of the federal government.

“Together, in a reasonable dialogue, we can work to give Nigerian workers a N615,000 national minimum wage as proposed by us on the basis of evidence and data.

“This will be in keeping with the pledge of President Bola Tinubu’s pledge to ensure a living wage for Nigerian workers,” the labour centres said.

While explaining proceeding at Wednesday’s negotiation, Ajaero said the government side did not act as if they were serious about negotiation because what they presented had no detail narrative regarding housing, transport or feeding components of their proposal.

“You have to explain how you arrive at the figure. There has to be a template for arriving at the N48,000 amount,” he stressed.

He also faulted the governors and other key government functionaries for not showing seriousness in the negotiation, saying that apart of the Anambra State Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who was busy defending the state’s inability to pay the old minimum wage, others did not show up at the meeting.

Meanwhile, NECA has urged the representatives of the organised labour to return to the negotiating table.

Speaking on behalf of the OPS in Abuja, the Director-General of NECA, Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, stated that, “the action of labour to walk out even when negotiations have not started, though within its rights to do so, is unfortunate.

“As it is seen globally, a major feature of all negotiations is for all parties to present their opening positions, which was done by all social partners.

“The expected follow-up action is the actual negotiation with attendant counter-negotiations, alignment and realignment of positions among others.

“The action of labour to walk out even when negotiation has not started, even when it is within its right to do so, have the potential to delay the assignment of the Minimum Wage Committee.”

While asking labour to reconsider its position, Oyerinde stated that, “we urge organised labour to reconsider its position and return to the negotiation table in the interest of its members and national development.

“The organised private sector remain absolutely committed to the review of the current National Minimum Wage to a new one that is fair, sustainable and which takes due cognisance of our current economic situation.”

Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Dike Onwuamaeze

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