Ahead the May Day celebration coming up on Sunday across the world, the organised Labour in Nigeria has presented a N56,000 new national minimum wage to the government, saying the present N18,000 minimum wage has long been eroded by the prevailing economic situation in the country.
The two Labour centres in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) jointly presented the demand to the government on Tuesday.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja, on Wednesday, president of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the organised Labour had made a formal presentation and officially submitted the new minimum wage demand of N56,000 to the government on Tuesday.
He pointed out that Nigerian workers had not fared well in the last one year, due to combination of many factors such as non-payment of salaries and the general poor state of the economy.
Wabba said: “On the issue of minimum wage, I can say authoritatively that as of yesterday (Tuesday), we have made a formal demand of N56,000 minimum wage to government.
“That demand has been submitted officially to the Federal Government and we hope that the tripartite system will look at it and review will be put in place.
“Our argument is that: yes, it is true that the economy is not doing well, but the law is also clear that this issue must be looked into; and workers should not be seen to be sleeping on their rights.
“These are processes, but when we come to the round table, we can then see the best way out.
But I think it is obvious that since it is a product of the law, it is usually required that the tripartite process be put in place so that together we can look at the issues.
“It is obvious that the workers have not fared well in the last one year, but we will not continue to lament. What we try to do is to work out a process of engagement on how those issues can be addressed.”
On the financial crisis in many states across the federation and how feasible such states could afford N56,000 minimum wage, the NLC president said it was a matter of the law and that any worker must not earn below what can sustain him in a month.
Wabba said: “First, you must understand the logic behind the minimum wage. The logic is to ensure that no worker earns below what can be able to sustain him for a period of 30 days. You also know that when we negotiated the N18,000 minimum wage, you know the value in terms of exchange rate, it was almost at N110 to a dollar. Today, it has virtually reduced to nothing.
“It is also about the law. The law envisages that within a circle of five years, the issue of inflation will be there, the issue of purchasing power reduction will be there. Mind you, the challenges we are passing through in our economy, we don’t expect it to be there forever. It is something that is transient. Economies will always go up and down. We are passing through a very turbulent time.
“The issue of minimum wage is not essentially for now, it is an issue we must take on board if we want to address the issue of corruption. Without taking proper care of the worker, it is very difficult. That is why I said it is a process and we are going to dialogue around that process. That is why collective bargaining is important.
“Remember that President Barack Obama increased the US minimum wage in 2008/2009 when the US economy was in recession. Because his understanding is that people need to be empowered to have the purchasing power to buy. If manufacturers are producing and nobody is buying, the economy will be at a standstill because people don’t have the purchasing power. And that is the situation we are in now. It is an argument.”