From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director-General, All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum, Salihu Moh. Lukman, has said that the minimum wage of optimally productive Nigerian worker should not be anywhere less than N100,000.
In a statement he made available to newsmen in Abuja last weekend, titled; True federalism and labour issues, he argued that it has become apparent that the leadership of labour unions in Nigeria have been weakened so much that their negotiating power is hardly oriented based on knowledgeable disposition about workers input in the production process.
He further described as an apology, the current minimum wage of N30,000 in the present-day Nigeria for any family.
The PGF DG however cautioned that using federal government capacity to fix minimum wage is going to be suicidal, noting that challenges bordering on ensuring availability of enough financial resources to guarantee higher levels of wages in the country must be addressed.
“It is difficult not to conclude that National Executive Council (NLC) and its leadership have a misplaced priority. As a union federation, its primary responsibility should be to ensure that Nigerian workers are able to have all it takes to guarantee maximum production.
“Wages are supposed to be the share paid to workers for their role in production. As things are in Nigeria, at all levels, production is low and in many cases wages, especially in the public sector, are hardly a function of workers’ productivity. Part of the difficulty, which our democracy must address is the question of developing the labour market.
“With more than 200 million population, could NLC be contented with its current low membership of far less than 20,000? Beyond creating jobs, the quality of those jobs is important. The whole notion of decent jobs is compromised so long as workers don’t earn living wages. Living wages will be a far cry if the current low productivity indices are retained.
“The implication of what NLC is campaigning for is that current unacceptably high levels of unemployment and low wages should be retained. If the truth is to be told, minimum wage of N30,000 in the present-day Nigeria for any family is an apology. In terms of potential, if our workers are optimally productive, minimum wage should not be anywhere less than N100,000.
“What is the proposal of organised labour, including NLC regarding how to increase employment, have decent wage that is indexed with both workers productivity and cost of living realities?
“Is it even an issue for concern for our labour leaders that workers productivity in the country is low? We need to take responsibility where it matters most. Nigeria is faced with a lot of problems and the earlier we come to terms with the reality that the only way we can solve our problems is to think out of the box, the better.
“Resolving these issues require a holistic approach, which should be about reviewing all our existing frameworks. If we want to be a federalist nation, centralised frameworks will completely undermine the capacity of our institutions to meet our national needs.
“Thinking out of the box require that we first accept that part of why we have most of our problems, including low wages, in the country is because of existing distortions in our federal system. We need to develop our democracy and we need to ensure that as a nation we operate a truly federal system,” he quipped in the statement.
While arguing the labour leadership has been weakened, Lukman said: “It may be convenient for the leadership of labour, including the NLC, to retain current framework of determining minimum wage based on the capacity of federal government.
“Unfortunately, our union leaders have weakened themselves so much that their negotiating power is hardly oriented based on knowledgeable disposition about workers input in the production process at all levels in the country.
“The only weapon they seem to use so often to win concessions and agreements is strike. Blackmails and muscle flexing has become an important integral strategy to discredit perceived opponents. Name calling and campaigns by the NLC leadership aimed at blocking any consideration of proposals to change our harsh realities as a nation are now very common.
“Today, we have a minimum wage of N30,000, which unions have been unable to achieve implementation in many states and many private sector establishments. In fact, even at the time of negotiating the minimum wage of N30,000, there were problems of getting the old minimum wage of N18,000 in many states and private establishments implemented.
“Some of the states that were able to implement the minimum wage are barely surviving. Rather than objectively reviewing our challenges, our labour leaders imagined that name calling and threatening political leaders with strikes is the way to go. This is most unfortunate. NLC leadership may want to share the full picture of status of Implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage, both in the public and private sectors, with Nigerians,” the statement read.
He however warned that; “To use the capacity of federal government as determining variables for minimum wage fixing would be almost suicidal.
Be that as it may, there are certainly challenges that need to be addressed.
“The challenges border on ensuring availability of enough financial resources to guarantee higher levels of wages in the country, in the context of which issues of minimum wage can be correctly computed taking both production and cost of living indices into account,” the statement read.