The President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, on Sunday said that the NLC may demand N1 million as the new minimum wage for government workers.
Mr Ajaero, who spoke while featuring in an interview on Arise Television on Sunday, said the new demand becomes imperative against the background of Nigeria’s sky-high inflation.
“This N1 million may be relevant if the value of the Nigerian (naira) continues to depreciate; if the inflation continues unchecked because the demand of labour is equally dependent on what is happening in the society,” Mr Ajaero said.
“You will remember that by the time we were contemplating N200,000 (as minimum wage), the exchange rate was about N800/N900 (to a dollar). As we talk today, the exchange rate is about N1,400 or even more.”
He noted that a bag of locally produced corn is about N56,000 or more.
“Foodstuff is getting out of reach, now are we going to get a minimum wage that will not be enough for transportation even for one week?
“You have to factor in these issues and that will determine the Federal Government’s commitment to this negotiation. It is not just that they want to give us a minimum wage,” he said.
Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose to 28.92 per cent in December 2023 from 28.20 per cent in November 2023.
The December 2023 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.72 per cent points when compared to the November 2023 headline inflation rate, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Mr Ajaero noted that the new minimum wage must reflect the economic conditions of the country.
He added that the initial N200,000 minimum wage proposal is no longer plausible, given the soaring price of food items and inflationary pressure in the economy.
He further explained that the old minimum wage will be expiring by April and the federal government ought to have set up a committee six months before that time to begin negotiation.
“It appears we are going to work within one month or two to agree on a figure and I doubt how those ones are going to… especially when you look at the people that the Federal Government assembled as members of the committee.
“They looked at some of the governors that are not paying even the existing minimum wage and even they have a minister of budget who didn’t implement his minimum wage as a governor. If you have these people in the government team on the issue of minimum wage, some of us have not seen a bright future in the work of this new minimum wage committee,” he said.
The federal government in January announced its plans to implement a new minimum wage.
President Bola Tinubu who disclosed this in his New Year broadcast said the commitment is to ensure that the government’s impact is felt by every Nigerian, with a specific focus on addressing the economic needs and well-being of the poor, vulnerable, and working-class citizens.
The government also set up a tripartite committee to determine a new minimum wage. The committee is chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Goni Aji.
Last week, both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) issued a two-week ultimatum to the federal government to address the food crisis or face mass protests.
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