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Minimum Wage: You can’t dictate what to pay, NLC replies Govs

The tripartite committee on the new minimum wage had proposed N62,000, while organised labour insists on N265,000.

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Minimum Wage: You can’t dictate what to pay, NLC replies Govs

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has faulted comments credited to governors that states should determine their minimum wage in their domains.

“This notion is not only dictatorial but also undermines the very essence as well as the model adopted for creating a national minimum wage in Nigeria,” the NLC said in a Friday statement by its Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah.

Labour unions, the government, and the private sector have been locked in negotiations over a new minimum wage for months. The tripartite committee on the new minimum wage had proposed N62,000, while organised labour insists on N265,000.

President Bola Tinubu later received the report of the committee, promising to pay what the country can afford. He is still consulting with stakeholders, after which a bill to enact a new minimum wage will be sent to the National Assembly.

Threat to Workers’ Welfare

In a meeting earlier this week, the Southern Governors’ Forum argued that the minimum wage should not be uniform. States should pay what they can afford, they insisted.

“The Forum discussed the minimum wage issues demanded by labour and unanimously agreed that the minimum wage should be reflective of the cost of living and ability to pay, and each state be allowed to negotiate their minimum wage,” the governors said in a communique.

READ ALSO: Wage Memo Snub: Labour convenes emergency meeting 

But the NLC has faulted the governors’ move, saying it “threatens the welfare of Nigerian workers and the national economy.”

“The concept of a national minimum wage is not arbitrary. It represents a national wage floor, a baseline below which no worker in the law should be paid.

This threshold is a collective agreement that ensures a minimum standard of living for every worker in the law. The governors’ demand to unilaterally determine the minimum wage negates this principle and threatens the welfare of Nigerian workers and the national economy,” the union said.

“It is important to remind the governors that the national minimum wage is not synonymous with the individual pay structures of the states which they implement religiously, reflecting their unique financial capabilities and circumstances.

This diversity in pay structures underscores the flexibility that already exists within the system, allowing states to reward their workers in alignment with their financial realities.”

The NLC berated governors and political officeholders for their extravagant lifestyles.

“Why is there no hue and cry when political office holders across the nation receive uniform salaries as determined by Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission?” the statement asked.

“This double standard which pits a few privileged against the majority poor is an issue that should be of concern to those who love this country.”

A Tough Path

Negotiations for a new minimum wage have been on the national front burner for months. The removal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the naira, which pushed the cost of inflation to new highs, further heightened the conversations about a new wage structure for workers.

During the negotiations, labour unions and the government have shifted grounds but have yet to reach a consensus. Workers had embarked on a warning strike, shutting down critical sectors of the economy like power to press home their demands.

The organised private sector under the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) had warned against paying a minimum wage higher than N62,000. That was after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) stepped down a memo on the minimum wage for more consultations.

Now, if it goes above N62,000, you have created two or three different dynamics. One, you have set the tone for non-compliance.

“That is one. Because if I cannot pay, I just can’t pay. Now, you have created a problem for the judiciary. All employees who are not satisfied have the right, according to the Act, to go to the National Industrial Court,” NECA’s director-general Adewale Oyerinde said.

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