ORGANISED labour has presented a new minimum wage of N56,000 to the Federal Government ahead of Sunday’s May Day celebration.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who spoke with reporters in Abuja, hoped the tripartite system to look into the demand would soon be put in place.
The labour leader said although labour was aware of the downturn in the economy, the laws of the land stipulates that minimum wage must be looked into every five years.
He said: “I can say authoritatively that as at yesterday, we presented N56,000 as minimum wage to government. That demand was submitted officially to the Federal Government. And we hope that the tripartite system to look at the review will be put in place.
“Our argument is that, yes, it’s true that the economy is not doing well, but the law is also clear that the 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 roundtable, we can then see the best way out. But I think it is obvious that since it is a product of law, it is usually required that the tripartite process be put in place so that we can look at the issues.
“It is obvious that 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.”
Asked if states that have not been able to implement the N18,000 minimum wage would be able to pay what they are demanding, he said: “First, you must understand the logic behind the minimum wage. The logic is to ensure that no worker earns below what can sustain him for 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 $110 to the naira. Today, it has been reduced to virtually nothing. It’s also about law; the law envisages that within a circle of five years, the issue of inflation will be there and the issue of purchasing power reduction will be there.
“Mind you, the challenges in our economy, we don’t expect it to be forever. It is something that is transient. Economy will always go up and down. We are passing through a turbulent time.
“The issue of minimum wage is not essentially for now. It’s an issue we must take on board, if we want to address corruption. Without taking proper care of the worker, it is difficult. That is why I said it’s a process and we are going to dialogue around that process. That is why collective bargaining is important.”
He added: “Remember that President Barack Obama increased the United States minimum wage in 2008/2009 when the U.S. 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’s an argument”.
President, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Boboi Kaigama told The Nation that the laws were due for a review, necessitating the demand for a new minimum wage.
He said: “We want to draw attention of the government to the fact that five years down the line, the minimum wage is due for review. We have made our submission and we expect a committee of organised labour and government to be put in place so that we sit down and see how the issues can be addressed.”