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Minimum Wage: Labour slashes demand to N500,000

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There are strong indications that organised Labour will push for N500,000 as the minimum wage as the zonal public hearing on the new wage structure begins on Thursday (today) in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja.

The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, in an interview on Arise TV on February 11, had stated that if the ongoing inflation continued, organised labour might push for a new minimum wage of up to N1m for Nigerian workers.

However, a top official of the NLC, who confided to our correspondent on Thursday, said that based on proposals submitted by state chapters to the congress’ headquarters, the organized labor might push for N500,000 at today’s meeting.

The public hearing on the new minimum wage, which will be held simultaneously in all six geopolitical zones, is expected to receive inputs from organised Labour, state governors, ministers, civil society groups, and the organised private sector on a new minimum wage reflective of the current economic realities and the workers’ aspirations.

Our correspondent learnt that the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, will chair the meeting in the North-East taking place in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Wale Edun, will preside over the South-West hearing taking place in Lagos.

President Bola Tinubu through his deputy, Kashim Shettima, on January 30, 2024, inaugurated a 37-member panel on the new minimum wage at the Council Chamber of the State House in Abuja.

With its membership cutting across the federal and state governments, the private sector, and labour, the panel is to recommend a new national minimum wage for the country on or before April 1 following the expiration of the current N30,000 minimum wage as provided by the law.

Though the tripartite committee met a few times in Abuja, it has yet to deliberate on any figure for the minimum wage.

However, the President of the NLC, Ajaero, in an interview on Arise TV on February 11, stated that if the ongoing inflation continued unabated, organised labour might push for a new minimum wage of up to N1m for Nigerian workers.

Ajaero said the demand from organised labour would be influenced by the cost of living which has been increasing since President Bola Tinubu assumed office, notably due to the removal of the fuel subsidy and other policies.

He said, “This N1m may be relevant if the value of the naira continues to depreciate; if the inflation continues unchecked because the demand of labour is equally dependent on what is happening in the society.

“You will remember that by the time we were contemplating N200,000 (as minimum wage), the exchange rate was about N800/N900 (to a dollar). As we talk today, the exchange rate is about N1,400 or even more.

“Those are the issues that determine the demand and it is equally affecting the cost of living. And we have always said that our demand will be based on the cost of living index. You will agree with me today that even a bag of rice is going for about N60,000/N70,000 or more.

“A bag of locally produced corn is about N56,000 or more. Foodstuff is getting out of reach, now are we going to get a minimum wage that will not be enough for transportation even for one week?’’

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