The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has renewed its call for an upward review of the N18,000 minimum wage.
The workers said increasing the wage to N56,000 would be okay as it would help to cushion the effects of naira devaluation and high inflation rate. They also said the increase in the wages would boost their productivity.
Its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said rising inflation was biting hard on the workers and reducing their purchasing power, even as high cost of goods and services were seriously affecting their welfare.
‘’Our opinion is also that workers have been pushed to the wall so, it’s time for the minimum wage to be reviewed both in law and practice because the cycle is due and inflation is biting very hard, high cost of goods and services is affecting workers seriously,’’ he said.
Wabba, who spoke with The Nation in Lagos, during the weekend, said in pushing for N52, 000, labour had looked at all the issues, including the challenges and “we thought that what we have done is reasonable”.
“What is the value of N18, 000, when it was signed, looking at inflation, purchasing power and ability to pay?” the labour leader asked, insisting: “We have been reasonable in making such demand and we hope that other social partners will look at it from the perspective of us being very committed and nationalistic in putting up those demands.”
The NLC chief said while those dismissing N52, 000 as unreasonable were entitled to their opinions, the reality was that workers could not feed themselves because of the high cost of goods and services.
He said: “Everybody has the right to his or her opinion, but the opinion of the workers is that a review of the minimum wage is legitimate both by law and practice. Five years cycle is legitimate. Many workers cannot send their children to school, many cannot pay their rent, and many cannot even go to work regularly.”
Wabba added that an upward review was imperative in view of the fight against corruption. “If you don’t pay workers well to meet up with their bills, we can’t fight corruption,” he argued, warning that workers should not be treated as slaves, as companies are still making profit.
He said it was necessary for the Technical Committee for Palliatives and Minimum Wage set up to negotiate the minimum wage to be comprehensive to avoid possible hitches along the road hence the need to carry along State Governors, the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and other critical stakeholders.
Wabba said the Committee would have 26 members where the governors will be represented, “because they have actually been the problem militating against the review of the minimum wage”.
He said left for the Federal Government, there would not have been any problem in implementing the new wage.
According to him, the issue affecting the wage was implementation, which was why in the wisdom of the Palliatives Committee, all the stakeholders would be brought to the table to drive the process.
Wabba said: “The essence of the new minimum wage is to make sure that the poor or the poorest of the worker is protected against exploitation; that the minimum is within which no employer of labour can go below. Many workers are being exploited. Many workers are being paid below N10, 000 and those are the issues we want to address.”