Except the Federal Government moves fast to avert the impending strike, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) will tomorrow commence nationwide protest over the new national minimum wage saga. The planned protest could eventually lead to a general strike by the Nigerian workers if the issue of the new national minimum wage of N30,000 is not resolved soon.
The prospect of a general strike looms large in the horizon following the failure of the Federal Government team, led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and organised labour to agree on the new minimum wage. Even the meeting held last week in Abuja between the government and labour did not reach any concrete agreement. The organised labour and Governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) are not yet on the same page over the minimum wage issue.
It is sad that all the parties are not shifting ground so that the issue of the new minimum wage will be resolved once and for all and possibly avert the looming nationwide strike. Labour’s insistence on N30,000 as the new national minimum wage has been opposed by Nigerian governors who have pleaded with the workers to accept the N22,500 they offered. The governors have argued that they are financially handicapped to pay the new wage as proposed by labour. But labour thinks otherwise and insists that the governors are not sincere.
It is unfortunate that negotiations on the new national minimum wage are still unresolved. Any national strike by workers at this point in time will likely paralyse the economy and adversely affect the general election that begins next month. Therefore, everything humanly possible must be done now to resolve the matter. The nation’s economy may not likely withstand the impending shutdown should workers embark on a strike. We recognise the efforts so far made to lay the new minimum wage issue to rest. These efforts will mean little if a new minimum wage acceptable by Nigerian workers is not fixed and implemented.
We urge the parties involved in the minimum wage issue to iron out the grey areas and resolve the matter forthwith. The N22,500 already on offer was reportedly arrived at on October 6,2018 after extensive deliberations among all the governors, from the current N18,000. This was after the submission of the report of the tripartite committee set up by President Buhari and headed by a retired Head of Service, Ms. Amma Pepple. In arriving at the N22,500 baseline threshold, the governors claimed they outlined their financial capacities and liquidity profiles. Labour on its part, gave reasons why that amount was far short of a living wage for the Nigerian worker, putting together present economic realities in the country.
There is no denying the fact that times are hard and that many states are facing huge financial constraints. However, we maintain that the sustainability of a new minimum wage above the N22,500 on the table, is achievable if the state governors can minimise their financial recklessness and be more prudent in managing the finances that accrue to their states. In fact, if the state governors can be prudent with state resources, abolish security votes and reduce the number of political aides, they can pay the proposed new minimum wage.
The government and the workers must reach a consensus on the new minimum wage between the N22,500 offered by the governors and the N30,000 demanded by workers. We, therefore, urge the Federal and state governments to speedily wrap up negotiations on the new minimum wage before the impending industrial action commences.
It is not debatable that the current national minimum wage of N18,000 per month is no longer adequate for the Nigerian worker, considering the rising cost of living in the country. Moreover, the existing minimum wage is long overdue for a review. That Nigerian workers need a living wage is no longer in dispute. Therefore, the government and labour must meet to ensure that this matter is finally resolved.