Nigerians Quest for a Fair & Decent Living Wage

The tripartite minimum wage committee set up by the federal government to negotiate the minimum wage for Nigerians commenced its sitting in Abuja. The 30 member committee which has as its chairman, a former Minister and Head of Service of the Federation, Ms Ama Pepple, was last month given the task to come up with a living wage for an average Nigerian worker. Members of the committee were drawn from organised labour bodies, Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Governors forum, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and from the Ministry of Labour.

Inauguration Of New Minimum Wage Committee In Photos
Cross-Section of Minimum Wage Committee Members

At the inauguration, President Buhari charged the committee to consider matters that are ancillary to support the salaries in coming up with a new national minimum wage. He said the concern should not only be for the welfare of the workforce but the effect on the country’s economy. In addition, the President would want the committee to bargain in good fate, have neutral recognition for each other and make the spirit of give and take their watch word.

The concern of an average Nigerian worker however, is to have a living wage that can at least help a man raise his head above the water amidst the harsh economy climate. Well, the politically organized labour headed by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria has proposed #56,000. Hence, the federal government’s decision on the recommendation of the minimum wage committee will be sent as an executive bill to the national assembly to undergo appropriate legislation scrutiny for passage into law.

FAIR WAGE FOR THE NIGERIAN WORKER

A wikipedia report in 2016 states that “while some countries have complex minimum wage systems, some few others have no fixed amount as minimum wage. Countries like Luxembourg and Australia ranked the highest with minimum wage of over $26,000 per annum. Uganda and Venezuela ranked the lowest with $21 per annum. Tanzanian has $220 per annum. Then Gambia has $317. Ghana has $58 per annum. Nigeria also has a very low ranking with our current minimum wage #18,000 per month (under $600 per annum). The NLC has for a long time insisted #56,000 as minimum wage ($1850 per annum). Is this a realistic demand?

BALANCING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S REQUEST AND LABOUR’S REQUESTS

When increasing the minimum wage we have to look at what happens to the consumers (if we increase the minimum wage we are going to see increase in demand for goods and services). That will lead to additional improvements in productive activities. The economy will ordinarily grow. But contrarily, if we increase the minimum wage we are going to deal with the challenge of the public sector inability to meet their wage payments obligations not to talk of the private sector operators such as private enterprise. So we need to do a proper analysis and see what amount of wage will take people home and be sustainable such that both the public sector entities and private sector operators are able to meet.

According to an asset management expert, Mr Johnson Chukwu, in a free market economy,  business operators makes choices on what to pay. But, most countries has a minimum wage that will sustain family life. We need to do alot of adjustment in public sector level, i.e., we need to improve productivity.

“There is a difference between productivity and productive activities. Productivity is the value that an employee create within a specified timeline. Then, increment in wage become justified because we are able to produce more. So, we need to address the ideal factors that make it difficult for productive activities to be high. Several things needs to be done.

“Beyond increasing the wage bill we need to address the issue of productivity and how do we eliminate those factors that reduce the average effectiveness of a Nigerian worker, then even a higher minimum wage will be easily paid because we are able to produce more than we consume.

“The wage bill must be increased to the level that the government would be able to pay. For the government to be able to pay, the government needs to review a structure of the bureaucratic such that the overlapping ministries would be eliminated and it doesn’t need to carry wages it does not need to bear. So, we need to address all those things”, he said.

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The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) in an interview with its National President, Bobboi Kaigama, reveals it’s position in respect to the minimum wage.

“The labour has already presented its position to the government much earlier than now and it still maintains that position. And the government is expected to take action after the NLC goes through the next three findings or submission from the state government, local government and organized private sector to come out and agree on a mutually acceptable figure that needs to be presented to the federal government”, it said.

In response to the federal government request for a fair wage that will not have a negative impact on the economy, TUC said there will be a mutual agreement.

“You should be aware that the worker’s take-home can not take he/her home because of the inflation and devaluation of the naira. And when we have the last minimum wage in 2011, the equivalent of the #18,000 to dollar was nearly over $100 but now, the equivalent of the #18,000 is around $50. This shows the devaluation in our naira and the purchasing power of the workers has reduced.

“Even though people are insisting that government should reduce the cost of living rather than increasing the minimum wage, the worker is only interested in the living wage. So, if the current #18,000 is a living wage then it would be discussed and agreed and if it is not then we should all agree on a living wage”, the TUC said.

Nigerians should be hopeful that the labour would eventually has a head-way as far as this issue is concern. We appeal to Nigerians to give the labour the encouragement and their continuous goodwill so that it comes out of the meeting successfully. It is expected to be a win-win situation where all the parties will be smiling out of the meeting hall.

Credit: “Factfile” @ Raypower 100.5 FM

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