NLC, TUC plan emergency NEC meeting over minimum wage, bonus

TUC and NLC logos

The organised labour in the country will soon come up with a strong position on the suspension of the payment of the wage award to civil servants and has warned the federal and state governments to prepare to increase the minimum wage from the current N30,000 monthly.

It also warned state governors that they would have no choice but to pay the minimum wage once it is signed into law next year.

Already, conversations are being held around the new minimum wage, which is expected to be signed into law soon. The Federal Government on its part has budgeted the sum of N1tn for minimum wage adjustments, promotion arrears and severance benefits for civil servants in its Ministries, Departments and Agencies, analysis of the 2024 appropriation budget released by the Budget Office of the Federation revealed.

However, state governments have largely remained silent on the issue of a new minimum wage for their workers, even in the face of escalating cost of living nationwide.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Idris Mohammed, said in an interview with Sunday PUNCH in Abuja that the current N30,000 minimum wage would expire at the end of March 2024.

The Federal Government’s team and the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council on October 18, 2019, agreed on the implementation of the N30,00 minimum wage after months of negotiations.

The Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress, Tommy Etim, told Sunday PUNCH that the body might resolve to embark on a prolonged industrial action during its next national executive council meeting.

He said in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, “At the last TUC NEC meeting, we called the government’s attention to the fact that stopping the payment of the wage award is not in the best interest of the government, because it is a recipe for industrial action; so, that alone is a signal.

“However, the government has not also invited us to tell us why they have not paid; so, we are waiting; if by the end of this month of December they have not paid, I can assure you that at the next meeting of NEC, there will be a resolution for an industrial action.

“Until the budget passes through the National Assembly and is enacted before Mr President assents to it. If it is assented to, there will be a supplementary budget to that effect (new minimum wage), so that is not an issue. When you look at the current inflation rate of about 28.2 per cent, no benchmark as of today can survive. So, it is not going to be based on a mere pronouncement of N500, 000 for instance.

“The negotiation for a new minimum wage will be based on socio-economic realities. That is what we are going to take to the table. We are going to look at all indices that a worker needs. The housing, transportation, and all these components will form the basis of our discussion and negotiation. So, it is not going to be on a round figure basis. The current minimum wage will be determined by the current prices of items.”

When asked about states that have failed to factor in adjustments for the new minimum wage in their budgets, the Head of Information of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Benson Upah, said, “Once the law is passed, they will be under obligation to comply with it. How they fund it will be up to them. At least they have the window of supplementary appropriation.”

Ahead of next year’s negotiation for a new minimum wage for workers in the country, the NLC insisted that only an amount reflective of the current economic realities would be accepted.

The President of the congress, Mr Joe Ajaero, stated this last Tuesday in Abuja at the 19th edition of the NLC 2023 Harmattan School.

Ajaero, represented by the Vice-President of the NLC, Mr Benjamin Anthony, said it was necessary for the government at all levels to recognise that life and living conditions were getting more difficult.

“The removal of subsidies on petroleum products has further worsened the challenges faced by working people. That is unleashing severe pain and contributing to galloping inflation and increasing inequality and poverty.

“We must reckon that a well-motivated and well-remunerated workforce has a positive impact on productivity and national development. As we anticipate the commencement of negotiations for the national minimum wage in 2024, we seek the understanding of all stakeholders to ensure that we use this opportunity to arrive at a minimum wage commensurate with the prevailing cost of living.”

The NLC president said the ultimate goal of labour was a living wage that would cover the cost of living and make allowance for savings.

On the wage award, Upah said the congress would also hold the Federal Government by its promise concerning the release of the outstanding wage award to workers.

Saturday PUNCH had earlier reported that the Federal Government only paid the wage award for September while failing to pay that of October and November.

The NLC and its counterpart, the Trade Union Congress, had warned the government against going back on the agreement it made with workers as regards the wage award to help mitigate the effects of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit popularly known as petrol. However, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation noted that plans were being put in place to ensure that workers receive their wage awards soon.

Commenting on the matter, Upah said, “You heard their response to the effect that workers have no cause to worry. We will hold them to their promise.”

One of the agreements reached with the Federal Government by the leadership of the NLC and the TUC is that the government will pay the sum of N35,000 as wage awards pending the time that negotiations for a new minimum wage will commence.

President Bola Tinubu had declared during his Independence Day speech that “low-grade workers” in the federal civil service would be awarded a wage of N25,000.

The amount was later increased to N35,000 following discussions with the organised labour unions. A memo signed by the Chairman, National Salaries Wages and Income Commission, Ekpo Nta, noted that the approval took effect from September 1, 2023.

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