Minimum wage: Workers running out of patience – NLC

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has faulted claims that labour representatives at  the joint national public service negotiation council were delaying the process of implementing the N30,000 minimum wage.

The body said the federal government should come clean on its implementation rather than deceiving the Nigerian workers.

NLC President Ayuba Wabba said this Thursday while speaking on the sidelines of the 2019 International Youths Day in Abuja.

He said the comments credited to the chairman,  national salaries, income and wages commission, Mr. Richard Egbule was unfortunate.

What Egbule said

Egbule, had in a media report Monday,  blamed the delay in the implementation of the “consequential adjustment” of the N30,000 new minimum wage on the unrealistic demands of labour unions.

He reportedly said the current demand of the labour unions would raise the total wage bill too high and that was why government could not accept workers’  proposed salary adjustments.

“Labour is asking for consequential adjustment and government in its wisdom had made budgetary provision for an adjustment of N10,000 across the board for those already earning above N30,000 per month.

“However, the unions have refused this offer, saying that because the increase in minimum wage from 18,000 to N30, 000 was 66 per cent, therefore they want 66 per cent increment across the board.

“We told them that the minimum wage was not raised from N18, 000 to N30, 000 through percentage increase but as a result of consideration of economic factors including ability to pay.

“However, we said that if they want consequential adjustments in percentage terms, we will use a percentage that when applied will not exceed what has been provided for in the budget.

“The computation based on percentage which government had given to labour, was 9.5 per cent from level 7 to 14 including level 1 to 6 of those salary structures that did not benefit from the minimum wage.

“And then five per cent from level 15 to 17, labour countered the offer and proposed 30 per cent increase for workers on grade levels 7 to 14 and 25 per cent for those on levels 15 to 17.

“One point  we keep repeating is, it will be unfair that because you gave the person earning minimum wage N12, 000, you give a level 17 officer almost N100, 000  if you apply 25 per cent,” he said.

NLC counters

Faulting the federal government’s position however,  Wabba said it was wrong to accuse workers who, he said , were at the receiving end of any delay.

He said what they (workers) wanted was  a figure commensurate  with the challenges workers passed through in the last eight years. 

The NLC president said with the challenges of high cost of goods and services, workers’ current take-home cannot sustain them.

Wabba said the figure which government said was inputted in the 2019 budget was unilaterally awarded, stating that “a supplementary budget can be provided to capture the new figure which labour is demanding.”

“Despite the fact that TUC and NLC are not directly driving the process of consequential adjustment, the process is ongoing. I read this morning that the joint public service negotiation council  that they are having meeting, if there is any stalemate, we’ll be informed and will find a way to assist them. 

“They have made the details of their discussion public. For anybody on that table to say that labour is delaying the process is not saying the obvious. I was also told that the person that made that statement is the chairman of the technical committee. Clearly  speaking, it is not in good faith.

“Workers are becoming very concerned, including ourselves, because the process must actually have an end, where workers can actually benefit from it.

“How can a worker or unions that are actually at the receiving end be said to delay the process. For  us, we want the money to be in the pocket of workers long before now, saying that unions or workers delayed it can’t be right. I’ve gotten across to them, they gave me the details of what the process is, and they have not delayed the process in any way.

What they want done is a win-win situation, and that it is not just a peanut. 

“They should actually take on board some of the challenges we have passed through in the past 8 years, especially cost of goods and services.  

“So, let the increase also be commensurate to the challenges; that is what the joint council is trying to do. Where they have challenge, they will refer to us and we will assist them.”

On  TUC’s ultimatum to the government, Wabba said, “they have the right to that, if they did that they have the right.”

On the concerns  that some states won’t be able to pay the new wage, he said, “from the perspective of labour, we will work assiduously with all our state councils, all our structures to ensure that no worker is short-changed in any state; that is the commitment of labour.

“People will want to conserve money, resources, but I think at this point, we must also realise the centrality of the challenge that the workers have passed through, especially with high cost of goods and services and lack of purchasing power for ordinary workers.”

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