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Minimum Wage: The Issue Isn’t Pay But Government’s Profligacy, Says Benson Upah

“Government has to do a self introspection to see where the issues are,” NLC’s Benson Upah says regarding minimum wage.

Speaking on the topic of minimum wage during an interview with ARISE NEWS on Monday, the head of department of information for the Nigerian Labour Congress, Benson Upah said that the problems that are ongoing are not primarily due to the amount of wages being paid to workers. Instead, the root cause of the issues is the government’s “profligacy”.

Essentially, he believes that the government’s financial mismanagement and wasteful practices are to blame for the economic difficulties, rather than the wages themselves.

He said, “In our estimation, the issues do not lie with wages but government’s own profligacy and an assumption that is pertinently criminal, that some people should live well and the majority should live hideously poor. Such reasoning is unfair. It is undemocratic and goes against the grain of democracy and civilisation.”

He asserted that “government needs to sit up, government needs to be serious. Government has to do a self introspection to see where the issues are.”

Upah noted that the joint National Executive Council meeting of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had anticipated possible government bad faith in the negotiation process but chose to pause strike action in good faith.

“We acted in good faith by pausing this strike action. It was not as if we didn’t know that this could arise. At the joint National Executive Council meeting of the TUC and NLC, somebody asked this question, what if the government acted malafide- in bad faith? And the response was that our troops, our resources, our reaction time, our good intentions are intact. But clearly, government is not serious.”

He also accused certain state governors of undermining the ongoing minimum wage negotiations.

“The governors driving this mischief, we know them. You can count them on your five fingers. These governors do not mean well. They’re throwing spanners in the works. While the federal government has even moved up slightly to 62,000, they are saying they can’t even pay the 60,000 that was initially proposed. It’s an act of mischief and the numbers are against them. The states are very rich now. The issue is not about Labour being difficult. Labour is talking about something which is practical, testable and reasonable. The rage of Labour will be easier to manage than the rage of Nigerians even as we speak for and on behalf of these weak Nigerians. If they push Nigerians to a point that they have to live the life of a jungle, we’ll all become victims.”

Concerning Labour’s next step, he said, “The appropriate organs of Labour will meet and take an appropriate decision. On our part, we are ready for negotiations. Negotiations in good faith.”

Melissa Enoch

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