Minimum Wage: Labour Insists on May 31 Deadline as Talks Resume Today

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After several weeks of hiatus, the tripartite committee established by the Federal Government will finally reconvene today, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, according to sources familiar with the matter in Abuja.

Labour unions remain firm on their proposal for a N615,000 minimum wage, insisting on a May 31, 2024 deadline for its implementation.

This development follows the Federal Government’s failure to present a nationally acceptable minimum wage after the previous one expired on April 18, 2024.

President Bola Tinubu, through Vice President Kashim Shettima, inaugurated the 37-member tripartite committee on January 30, 2024, to propose a new minimum wage. The committee includes representatives from federal and state governments, the private sector, and organized labour.

During the committee’s inauguration, Shettima urged members to quickly reach a resolution and submit their report. “This timely submission is crucial to ensure the emergence of a new minimum wage,” Shettima emphasized.

The committee, chaired by former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation Goni Aji, held zonal public hearings on March 7, 2024, in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja. Various figures were proposed during these hearings, reflecting the economic challenges and high living costs across regions.

The NLC and TUC proposed different living wages in various states: N794,000 in the South-West, N447,000 by the TUC, N709,000 in the North-Central, N850,000 in the South-South, N485,000 in the North-West, and N540,000 in the South-East. Ultimately, organized labour settled on N615,000 as a living wage.

Despite the March 7 hearings, little has been reported about the committee’s activities until now. Three informed sources confirmed to The PUNCH on Tuesday that the committee would resume negotiations on Wednesday. One source stated, “Yes, the minimum wage committee will be meeting on Wednesday.”

The sources emphasized the urgency of concluding the minimum wage process by the end of May. “We expect that as they meet, they will also keep an eye on the deadline. If not, we will take necessary action to compel them,” said one source.

Labour unions expect the Federal Government to make a realistic offer. “The Federal Government should make an offer that considers the interests of workers and the nation. When workers are paid well, they are motivated, increasing productivity and benefiting the economy,” the source added.

Increasing the minimum wage would enhance workers’ purchasing power, positively impacting the economy. “More money in workers’ hands means higher consumption, leading to increased production and employment,” the source noted.

The National Vice-President of the TUC, Tommy Etim, reaffirmed the unions’ stance on the N615,000 proposal and the May 31 deadline. “We are still standing on the N615,000 and the deadline of May 31 still stands,” he stated.

Previously, The PUNCH reported a stalemate in negotiations, with organized labour demanding N615,000 and the government proposing between N60,000 and N70,000. NLC President Joe Ajaero said the N615,000 figure was based on an analysis of the current economic situation and the needs of an average Nigerian family.

Meanwhile, the National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, proposed a middle-ground approach, expressing concern over the government’s apparent disinterest in negotiating with labour. Onwubiko deemed the N615,000 demand unrealistic given Nigeria’s resources but emphasized the need for serious negotiations.

“Labour and the government have been discussing, but it looks like a monologue. The N615,000 amount is unrealistic given Nigeria’s resources, but it should be a starting point for negotiation,” Onwubiko concluded.

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