Minimum wage: Labour pushes April date, govs warn against bloated demand

Written by on March 22, 2024

As the National Minimum Wage Committee meets next week, organised Labour is insisting that the implementation of the new wage must start next month,  Okechukwu Nnodim, Gift Habib, and Abdulrahman Zakqriyau write

The Nigeria Labour Congress, on Thursday, said the new minimum wage for Nigerian workers would begin in April this year and that the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage would meet on March 27 and 28, 2024 to submit and deliberate on its zonal reports.

It was also gathered that the current N30,000 minimum wage expires this month, while the new one would take off from next month.

This came as state governors warned against unrealistic demands from Labour and urged the National Minimum Wage Committee to consider the capacities of states to pay the new minimum wage during the meeting on March 27 and 28, 2024.

But Labour insisted that the governors were unwilling to pay workers despite receiving bailouts, for instance, during the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari,

They stressed that the payment of salaries was not charity, as workers work hard to earn their salaries.

Speaking with one of our correspondents on the March 27 and 28 meeting, the National President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, said, “The zonal committees are submitting the reports of the public hearings on March 27, 2024.

You know that after the public hearings, all that we have are the several zonal reports, so we will now bring them together to work on them before reaching agreements.”

He explained that the zonal committees would submit their reports to the Minimum Wage Committee “when we reconvene on March 27 and 28 with the reports from our various zones.

“From there we can now look at the various reports, deliberate on them, and do further consultations.”

Asked whether the implementation of the new minimum wage would start on April 20 as speculated in some quarters, Ajaero replied, “They don’t pay salaries on the 20th. The effective date for implementation is April. So if we finish (deliberations), they pay, but if we don’t finish, then they will pay arrears for that month.”

The Federal Government in January this year announced its plan to implement a new minimum wage to reflect the current economic realities.

The current national minimum wage is N30,000, which the labour unions have argued that it is no longer realistic, given the galloping inflation in Nigeria.

President Bola Tinubu, in his New Year broadcast, said his administration was committed to implementing a new minimum wage to give Nigerian workers an improved welfare.

The government subsequently set up a tripartite committee on January 30, 2024, to determine a new minimum wage.

The 37-man committee is chaired by the former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Goni Aji.

The committee had the terms of reference to ‘consult all stakeholders on the issue of national minimum wage and recommend a realistic and practical national minimum wage to the government.’

In furtherance of the assignment, a zonal public hearing was held simultaneously on March 7, 2024 in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, and Abuja.

The NLC and the TUC in different states proposed various figures as a living wage, referencing the current economic crunch and the high costs of living.

In their different proposals on the minimum wage, the NLC asked the South-West states to pay N794,000 as the TUC mentioned N447,000.

At the North-Central zone hearing in Abuja, the workers demanded N709,000 as the new national minimum wage, while at the South-South, N850,000 minimum wage was demanded.

In the North-West, N485,000 was proposed, while the South-East stakeholders demanded N540,000 minimum wage.

When approached on Thursday to provide updates on the tripartite committee’s activities, another official with the NLC, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authority to speak on the matter, confirmed the position of the NLC president.

The source said, “There will be a meeting of the National Minimum Wage Committee on the 27th and 28th of this month inside the Villa and we expect that those reports will be submitted and acted upon. Other discussions will be furthered during the meetings and we hope that issues around the figures will receive greater attention.

“The implementation of the new minimum wage can only commence after it has been passed into law and we expect that the entire process which includes passage into law by the National Assembly would have been completed, at least by April 19, which is the day the existing new minimum wage would have expired. So that the new minimum wage will take off by the next day, being 20th of April, 2024.”

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