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Minimum wage: FG calls Committee meeting, Labor insists on May 31 deadline

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Wednesday, May 15th, 2024
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LAGOS — Following Organized Labor’s insistence on downing tools and declaring a nationwide strike if discussions on the new National Minimum Wage are not concluded by May 31, 2024, the Federal Government has summoned a meeting of the 37-member Tripartite Committee on the New National Minimum Wage, NNMW, for today in a major effort to beat the deadline.

Recall that Organized Labor, under the platform of the Nigeria Labor Congress, NLC, and its Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, counterpart had on May 1, 2024, in a joint address during the May Day celebration at the Eagle Square, Abuja, warned that “if, however, the negotiation on the national minimum wage is not concluded by the end of May, the trade union movement in Nigeria will no longer guarantee industrial peace in the country.

Determined to meet the deadline and avoid another round of nationwide industrial unrest, Vanguard gathered that the government, through the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, NSIWC, which is the secretariat of NNMW, summoned a meeting of the Tripartite Committee NNMW, today, with the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, as a venue.

The invitation letter to the meeting, was gathered, was signed by the Secretary/ member of the Tripartite Committee NNMW, Ekpo Nta.

FG, OPS, states, others to make presentations

According to sources, among the agenda of today’s meeting are presentations by the Federal Government/states and Organized Private Sector, OPS, of their minimum wage proposals, as organized labor had already made its proposal of N615,000 wage demand.

There will also be a presentation by the NSIWC on the report of the income survey of the informal sector of the Nigerian economy 2023 and a report of the desk review of the remuneration survey of SMEs, conducted by SMEDAN/NBS 2013, 2017 and 2021.
It was learned that there will also be a presentation of the final report by the sub-committees on the new national minimum wage recommendation, appraisal of the implementation and effect of the extant National Minimum Wage Act on the national economy, exemptions and criteria for exemptions and implementation, monitoring, enforcement, frequency and mechanism for future review, among others.

The sources equally disclosed that there will be discussions on the sub-committees’ final reports and tripartite position on NMW, saying if everything goes well, there would be the composition of the subcommittees on report drafting and draft NMW Bill.

One of the labor leaders who is a member of the committee, told Vanguard: “The government is racing against time as organized labor will not shift the May ending deadline given to the government to conclude negotiations on the new NMW.
“We expect that full negotiation will commence in tomorrow’s (today) meeting because workers are really going through serious difficulties and hardship because of the anti-people policies of the government.

“We are on the same page with President Bola Tinubu on a living wage for Nigerian workers. We expect all members to help the President and ensure that his promise to give workers a living wage is realized.

‘The President has on several occasions, promised a living wage which was restated by the vice president during the May Day celebration in Abuja. Living wage ensures that workers’ salary meets their basic needs. That is why we proposed the N615,000 minimum wage.

“From the breakdown of the N615,000, you could see that there are no frivolities or luxuries. There are no provisions for calls, entertainment, community levies, church dues, and extended family expenses.

‘’As you are aware, at the time we proposed, the increase in electricity tariff was not done. The increase has added more burden to the workers. Stories across the country show that workers are in dire need of help. They are suffering, they are hungry, and they are in pain because of the government’s policies.

“We have made it abundantly clear that if the discussions on the minimum wage are not concluded by the end of this month, we cannot guarantee national industrial peace and we mean everything about it.

“We are not playing with the deadline. The government knows that they are racing against time. The minimum wage is very dear to every worker in Nigeria, whether public or private.”

On his part, another member of the committee from the Nigeria Labor Congress, NLC, Professor Theophilus Ndubuaku, who confirmed today’s meeting, told Vanguard that counter offers are expected at the meeting from the government and the private sector.

On the government’s offer, he said: “We understand that the government met but they are still keeping it to themselves, so it’s that tomorrow (today) that everything will be unveiled.

‘Talks on minimum wage must conclude this month’

“We have given them something like an ultimatum that the thing must be completed this month (May). Even as it is now, I express some reservations unless we are meeting every day. But again, they can come up with something that might not cause much argument.

“After tomorrow (today), we will know the position of government. All the committees have met and have done their work. So we expect that this meeting will unveil their offer.

“The state governors are talking about N40,000, N60,000 and N70,000. But nobody will accept that. At the time we meet, they will tell us why they cannot pay for something tangible and from there the argument can now start.

“By the time they unveil their offer tomorrow (today), we may adjourn for another two days and come back. At the stage we are now, everything has been done, all committees have met and the reports of committees are ready.

“I think if they don’t want it to drag, it can be concluded before the end of May. Whatever we agree has to pass through the National Assembly for legislative action. The National Assembly will not be a problem, it is something they can handle very fast because someone is already drafting the bill.”

May 31 deadline

On May Day, the NLC and TUC had said: “The battle for a new national minimum wage rages on. Our demand of N615, 000 stands firm, rooted in the grim reality of workers’ lives across the nation.

“Through rigorous engagement with all stakeholders, we have pressed for a two-year lifespan for the new Act, with automatic adjustments triggered by inflation surpassing 7.5 per cent.

“Every employer with five employees and above must comply. We demand robust monitoring and strict penalties for non-compliant state governments.

“We have based our figures on real data gathered from your responses nationwide, ensuring that our demand reflects the true cost of living for an average family.

“Our message is clear: Anything less than a living wage condemns workers to poverty. We urge vigilance as we near the finishing line determined not to let other interests derail our pursuit of economic justice.

‘Together, we will ensure that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s promise of a living wage becomes a reality for every worker in Nigeria.

“If, however, the negotiation of the national minimum wage is not concluded by the end of May, the trade union movement in Nigeria will no longer guarantee industrial peace in the country.”

Justification for minimum wage

NLC and TUC in a document sighted by Vanguard stated: “The national minimum wage is a tool that aims to ensure fair wages for workers and reduce income inequality. In contemporary economic discourse, the issue of the National Minimum Wage, NMW, occupies a central position, reflecting the ideological contestations between leftist and neoliberal perspectives.

“The NMW serves as a critical tool in addressing systemic inequalities inherent within capitalist societies. The fundamental principle underlying leftist ideology is the pursuit of social justice and equitable distribution of resources.
“In this context, the NMW is viewed as a mechanism to uplift the working class, reduce poverty, and mitigate income disparities. By ensuring a floor for wages, the NMW protects workers from exploitative practices of employers and guarantees a decent standard of living.

‘’Moreover, it enhances workers’ bargaining power, fostering a more equitable distribution of wealth and promoting social cohesion.’’

vanguardngr.com

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