The Nigerian Labor Congress and the Trade Union Congress have listed the conditions for the proposed revision of the national minimum wage, saying that the continued rise in inflation and the devaluation of the naira must be checked before the wage increase announced by the Nigerian government can be considered. Federal government.
Organized workers explained that the cost of virtually all consumables in Nigeria had been rising, emphasizing that if this continued; any amount of money that would be added to the minimum wage might not meet the expectations of the workers.
The NLC and TUC spoke in the context of the revelation by Labor and Employment Minister Chris Ngige that the Federal Government would soon announce pay increases for civil servants due to the constant increase in the prices of consumer goods.
the punch reports that Nigeria’s headline inflation has continued to rise this year, reaching a new high of 21.47% in November 2022 from 21.09% in October 2022, according to the Consumer Price Index report published by the Office National Statistics this month.
the punch noted that this was the highest rate in some 17 years.
According to the NBS, the reason for the year-on-year increase was an increase in the import cost due to persistent currency depreciation and a general increase in the cost of production, including an increase in the cost of energy.
The food inflation rate also increased to 24.13% year-on-year, 6.92% higher than the 17.21% recorded in November 2021.
The World Bank recently said that Nigeria could have one of the highest inflation rates in the world by 2022, and that rising prices would lower the welfare of Nigerian households.
Speaking at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, the minister explained that a Presidential Salary Committee is currently reviewing salaries with a plan to announce its decision in early 2023.
But in reaction to Wednesday’s planned wage review, NLC Vice President Joe Ajaero told The PUNCH that the government, employers and unions need to come together to review the minimum wage before any increase can be considered.
He said: “As we speak now, the price of kerosene, cooking gas, a liter of fuel; any of these items, multiply your cost by 30 days; it is more than the current minimum wage of N30,000.
“So it’s not necessarily how much money or how much you’re going to put in that’s going to solve our problem. You have to check the rate at which these items go up, or else, even within a day or two, the money will run out.”
Asked what the workers expect in terms of the review and the possible minimum wage the government should consider, Ajaero replied: “I don’t think we should put the cart before the horse.
“But if they have used the word ‘review’, then it means that the tripartite body will meet and take into account all the issues, whether it is based on the cost of living, since we will also see the inflationary trend and the devaluation of the coin.
“All of these things need to be brought to the table in the course of the review. Therefore, one cannot simply give figures on the amount at this time. If it is a review, I think it will be a comprehensive review in line with the prevailing situation.”
Explaining what he meant by a tripartite body, Ajaero said: “It includes the government, workers and employers, which are the parties that make up the legs on the industrial relations tripod. They should be present when this issue is discussed.”
When pressed further to project an amount that should be considerable at the moment, considering the current economic situation in Nigeria, the NLC Vice President insisted that it would not be possible to give a figure due to the country’s rampant inflation.
He said: “The inflationary trend is not constant and that is why it becomes difficult to project at any time. Given the level of inflation and the way it eroded the current minimum wage, it will be difficult to project in percentages what should be good for the review.
“This is because when you multiply the cost of all consumables by 30 days, what you get seems to be higher than the current minimum wage, for example, the price of a loaf of bread multiplied by 30 days, is more than the minimum salary .
“If you don’t control inflation by keeping it at a near constant rate, if it continues to rise, there is no amount of increase in naira terms that will alleviate the level of currency devaluation and workers’ take-home pay.”
Ajaero added: “Another thing is that if the naira continues to depreciate in value on a daily basis, it will be difficult to project an amount, unless we see a situation where the minimum wage for workers would self-adjust. so that if the inflation rate increases by a particular percentage, the minimum wage will also be adjusted based on that percentage.”
NLC listing conditions
The determination of the new salary, Ajaero said, would be based on different indexes such as the cost of living, the inflation rate, the devaluation rate and others.
He said: “It’s not going to be a straitjacket issue. If the Federal Government says that there will be a review in the new year, and that review will involve a tripartite session: labor, government and employers. And as they also said it will be determined by the increase in the cost of living; then, some factors will be considered, which are the cost of living index, the inflation rate, the devaluation rate and others to determine the new salary”.
“That’s why we can’t project a particular amount, but if you look at all the indices that make up a life index, they are higher even than the current minimum wage of N30,000.
“Take for example, a loaf of bread now costs N1,000, and in 30 days it will be N30,000. So, all of these will be brought to the table. If you look at even transportation, kerosene, diesel, gasoline, and cooking gas; and other expenses are more than N30,000 minimum wage,” she explained.
He spoke about the need to keep inflation constant, saying, “There will be a need to keep inflation constant, not just the minimum wage. Because if you don’t hold inflation constant, no matter how much you approve today, it will erode the next day.
“So if it comes to a review, then the federal government has to bring all of these factors to the table. But if it’s a prize, then it’s something else entirely. We will know how to comment when we get clarification from them.”
Speaking to our correspondent in Abuja, TUC General Secretary Nuhu Toro stressed the need for the government to address the devaluation of the naira and rising inflation, while reiterating the imperative to regulate the cost of goods and services.
He stated: “We cannot simply talk about an increase in the minimum wage; there is a need to regulate the cost of goods and services and that is the only way Nigerian workers can have value for the small wages they receive.
“Remember, the workers worked hard to create this wealth, so it is not right for the worker who created the wealth to go hungry. Take for example the current minimum wage of N30,000 who currently can’t do anything.
“As a worker living in Abuja, if you take N1,000 and you live in Mararaba, you commute to the office with N500 and when you return home from the office, you also pay N500; transport would take everything. That N1,000 a day multiplied by 30 means that N30,000 is gone.
“What about children’s nutrition, health and schooling? Automatically, there is nothing that means that workers only work to earn the transportation fee. That is not fair. it is inhumane. The TUC will not sit back and fold their hands. We will talk”.
Proposing a realistic minimum wage, Toro said: “Without being sarcastic, even if you introduce N60,000 as the minimum wage, which is twice what is paid now, it doesn’t align with the high cost of living, another index value. ”
Also speaking, Nigerian Senior Civil Servants Association National Chairman Tommy Etim called on the government to provide extra benefits for civil servants as he says the extra benefits will help cushion the effects of inflation.
Lamenting the poor working conditions of workers in the country, he said: “Well, the revision of the minimum wage is overdue, when you look at the socioeconomic factors in the face of the high level of inflation. For an increase in workers’ wages to have an impact, the government has to look at other sectors; the environment in which workers operate.
“Are the workers even operating in enabling environments? Insecurity in the country is hitting officials hard. You see, many of them couldn’t travel because the road is not even safe, except if you have the means to go by air and how many officials have the means?
Aviation union seeks raise
The President of the Nigerian Air Transport Services Seniors Association, Mr. Illitrus Ahmadu, stated that the NLC and TUC would advocate the minimum wage review, however, he doubted that states could implement it.
The private sector reacts
The president of the National Union of Employees of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, Abakpa Anthony, said that the minimum wage was totally inadequate.
According to him, the minimum wage an average worker should earn could range from N120,000 to N150,000, adding that both high-earning workers and their low-paid counterparts shop in the same market.
For the General Chairman of the Nigerian Maritime Workers Union, Adewale Adeyanju, N300,000 should be the minimum wage for the average worker in the country.
He noted: “Between you and me, we know that everything that goes up in this country does not go down in terms of inflation. So whatever you want to put as the new minimum wage; Can you cushion the plight of workers in the country? So for us, we are suggesting that the government make the minimum wage N300,000.”
Meanwhile, the director general of the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labor Studies, Isa Aremu, has called on state governors and private sector leaders to improve the pay scale for workers.
The former NLC vice president also stressed the need for voters to vote for leaders who introduce “good wages.”
He said: “This is not a new national minimum wage. Rather, it is the revision of salaries in federal establishments that is opportune. States are also free to lift their workforce out of income poverty caused by rising global inflation, as President Buhari is doing.
”I suggest that state governors and private employers follow in the footsteps of the federal government. Improving workers’ wages is smart economics. Workers buy basic goods and services such as food, transportation. Good wages improve effective demand, which in turn impacts supply from producers who are already agonizing from poor sales and low or no sponsorship.”