Minimum Wage: Labour Reacts Over Governors Stance

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has vehemently criticized the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) for their stance that state governments cannot afford the proposed ₦60,000 minimum wage, describing it as a step towards economic catastrophe.

In a statement released over the weekend, the NLC accused the governors of bad faith amid ongoing wage negotiations.

The Acting Director of Media Affairs and Public Relations of the Governor’s Forum, Mrs Halima Ahmed, had earlier conveyed the governors’ concerns, stating that the proposed wage would consume states’ monthly allocations from the federation account, limiting their ability to cover other expenses.

However, NLC’s spokesperson, Benson Upah, countered this claim by pointing out the significant increase in the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) disbursements, which have risen from ₦700 billion to N1.2 trillion.

Upah argued that reducing the high cost of governance and corruption could make the proposed wage feasible.

The labour union emphasized that the national minimum wage is designed to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable workers, urging the governors to reconsider their position in light of the economic realities faced by workers, including inflation and the impact of recent policy changes such as the removal of fuel subsidies and currency devaluation.

The NLC warned that failing to adjust the minimum wage could have severe repercussions on the national economy, especially in states where the public sector plays a significant role in economic activities.

They called for a balanced approach that considers the economic well-being of workers and, by extension, the broader national interest.

The statement reads, “We do believe the Governors have acted in bad faith. It is unheard of for such a statement be issued to the world in the middle of an on-going negotiation. It is certainly in bad taste.

“As for the veracity of their claim, nothing can be further from the truth as FAAC allocations have since moved from N700 billion to N1.2 trillion. making the governments extremely rich at the expense of the people.

“All that the governors need to do to be able to pay a reasonable national minimum wage (not even the N60,000) is cut on the high cost of governance, minimise corruption as well as prioritise the welfare of workers.

“It is important to explain here that a national minimum wage is not synonymous with the different pay structures of different states. The national minimum wage is the lowest floor below which no employer is allowed to pay. The aim is to protect the weak and the poor.

“We are not fixated with figures but value. Those who argue that moving the national minimum wage from N30,000 to N60,000 is sufficiently good enough miss the point. In 2019, when N30,000 became the minimum, N300 exchanged for $1 (effectively making the minimum wage an equivalent of $100 or thereabout) while inflation rate was 11.40.

“At the moment the exchange rate is at N1,600 to $1 while inflation hovers at 33.7% (40% for food). This puts the value of the minimum wage at $37.5 for a family of six. This is happening at a time costs of everything rose by more than 400% as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy. This is an extreme bad news for the poor.

“Government’s policies of fuel subsidy removal, mindless devaluation of the Naira, energy tariff hike by 250% and interest rate hike by 26.5% will continue to hurt the economy (especially manufacturing sector) and the poor.

“Already manifest is the mass incapcity of Nigerians leading to overflowing warehouses of the productive sector of the economy. The downward trend will continue except the capacity of workers and businesses is enhanced.

“Paying a miserable national minimum wage portends grave danger to not only the workforce but the national economy as in truth, economies of most states are driven by workers wages.In light of this, we urge the governors to do a re-think and save the country from a certain death.”

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