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Minimum wage: Let each state negotiate what it can pay — Govs

LAGOS — Governors from the Southern part of Nigeria, under the aegis of the Southern Governors’ Forum, yesterday called for the consideration of the ability of each state to pay the new minimum wage.

Their call came as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, said Wednesday night that it will continue to engage stakeholders to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the new minimum wage crisis.

Although President Bola Tinubu was, in an unusual manner, present at the National Economic Council, NEC meeting often chaired by Vice President Kashim Shettima, said no word about the new minimum wage. The vice president said nothing about it either.
This is even as Organised Labour yesterday raised alarm that both public and private sectors’ workers were becoming restive over delay in concluding the new minimum wage, and were pushing Labour leaders to declare industrial action to quicken the process.
Govs take stand on minimum wage
The governors in a 16-point communique issued yesterday, also advocated that each state be allowed to negotiate the new wage with the labour unions.
“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 that each state should be allowed to negotiate its minimum wage.
‘’This led to the forum’s discussion on fiscal federalism and devolution of powers,” the communique read.
Rising from a meeting of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, in Abuja in the early hours of yesterday, governors of the 36 states of the federation promised to remain dedicated to the process and assured that better wages would result from the ongoing negotiations.
At the meeting were governors of Oyo, Zamfara, Anambra, Delta, Gombe, Kano, Imo, Kwara, Ondo, Kaduna, Kebbi, Ebonyi, Sokoto, Ogun States, among others

Deputy governors of Akwa Ibom, Osun, Borno States, and others were also at the meeting.

In a communique signed at the end of the meeting by NGF chairman and governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the governors said: “The Forum discussed the new national minimum wage.
“The governors agreed to continue engaging with key stakeholders to reach a mutually agreeable solution. We remain dedicated to the process and assure that better wages will result from the ongoing negotiations.”
Recall that President Bola Tinubu had in January, set up a tripartite committee to negotiate a new minimum wage for workers.
The committee comprises the organised labour, representatives of federal and state governments as well as the Organised Private Sector, OPS.

However, the committee members failed to reach an agreement on a new realistic minimum wage for workers, forcing labour to declare an indefinite industrial action on Monday, June 3, 2024.
Businesses were paralysed as labour shut down airports, hospitals, the national grid, banks, National Assembly, and state assemblies’ complexes.
The labour unions had said the current minimum wage of N30,000 can no longer cater for the well-being of an average Nigerian worker, asking government to offer workers something economically realistic in tandem with current inflationary pressures, attendant effects of the twin policies of petrol subsidy removal and unification of the forex windows of the current administration.
Labour eventually relaxed its strike on June 4, 2024, following assurances from the President that he is committed to a living wage above N60,000.
Both the Trade Union Congress, TUC, and Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, leaderships subsequently resumed talks with representatives of the Federal Government, states, and the Organised Private Sector.

On Friday, June 7, 2024, the two sides (labour and the government) still failed to reach an agreement.
While labour dropped its demand from N494,000 to N250,000, the government added N2,000 to its initial N60,000 offer, making it N62,000.
Also recall that both sides had submitted their reports to the President who was expected to make a decision and send an executive bill to the National Assembly for a new minimum wage to be passed into law for his assent.
In his Democracy Day speech on June 12, 2024, President Tinubu assured Labour that an executive bill on the new national minimum wage would soon be sent to the National Assembly for passage.
The President, who was expected to decide on the N62,000 proposal of the government and private sector side; and the N250,000 demand from Labour, also said this week that he would carry out a wider consultation on the matter.
‘Workers getting restive’
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that both public and private sector workers are becoming restive over the delay in concluding the new minimum wage, and are mounting pressure on labour leaders to declare industrial action to quicken the process.

According to sources, the workers are complaining that all the promises of palliatives by government to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal are not forthcoming, with the suffering caused by removal of fuel subsidies becoming unbearable.
One of the labour leaders in the public sector unions, who spoke to Vanguard, said: “The public sector workers, otherwise known as the civil servants, have been lamenting the hardship and suffering they have been passing through.

“Their major complaints are that while the minimum wage has been protracted and prolonged, the suffering and the hardship brought about by government polices, especially the removal of subsidy, has worsened their conditions of living.
“They noted that the palliatives promised by the government are not forthcoming and that many of the state governors are not paying palliatives. Even the federal government has not been consistent in its payment.

“Some of the governors said they are waiting for the minimum wage. It has been double jeopardy for us as workers because while the palliatives are not coming, the new minimum wage is also in limbo. However the hardship has become unbearable as the costs of basic necessities are no longer affordable.

“There are families to feed, school fees to pay. The workers are becoming very restive and are urging us to take action, including industrial action, to quicken the resolution. They think the government is unnecessarily dragging the process and that we need to do something urgent.’’
Similarly, the private sector workers are on the same page as their counterparts in the public sector, as one of their leaders told Vanguard that the pressure by workers was getting out of hand.

‘’They keep asking when we are resuming the suspended strike for the government to know that we are suffering. Besides the hardship and suffering created by the fuel subsidy removal, the problems in the private sector has been compounded by the foreign exchange crisis and the recent hike in electricity tariff.

‘’Like other workers, they keep reminding us that what they are earning can not take them to the bus stop, let alone take them home them home, yet the minimum wage they have been hoping would come early to lessen their pains, appears elusive. They believe as labour leaders, we are not doing enough to push the government to hasten the process,’’ a labour leader in the sector said.

However, speaking on the restiveness of workers over the delay in concluding the minimum wage, a member of the Tripartite Committee on the New Minimum Wage, NNMW, on the labour side and the President-General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, said: “There is nothing we can do for now other than to continue to appeal and explain the situation to them (workers) to take it easy. You know the process of sending it to the National Assembly is still on and I am sure the National Assembly is waiting for Mr President’s final nod on the matter.

“We have been exercising patience for many months now. It is like the story of the tortoise that was incarcerated for years and when his incarceration took one or two days for him to come out, he started shouting that he should be released.
‘’We have been telling our members to exercise patience. We know some of them are restive, we can assure them that no matter how long the minimum wage will be paid, there will be arrears at the end of the day.”

We’re not happy with Tinubu’s slow motion — SSANU

Reacting in the same manner, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, frowned on the alleged unnecessary delay by President Bola Tinubu.

SSANU said the President was supposed to have concluded all needed consultations with the necessary stakeholders before the Tripartite Committee on the new Minimum Wage submitted its report.

Speaking at the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting, in the University of Benin, Edo State, SSANU President, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, noted that the President, during his campaign, had promised to pay Nigerian workers a living wage that would take care of their immediate needs.

Ibrahim, who is the national internal auditor of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, while responding to President Tinubu’s request to consult with governors and other stakeholders before taking a position on the amount to be decided, said: “So I can say that at the level of SSANU, we are not too happy about the slow motion because the President of this country, President Bola Tinubu, campaigned on the mantra of ensuring that when he comes on board, he will make sure there will be a living wage for Nigerian workers.

“It is based on that most of our workers believed him and worked for him and voted him in and, therefore, the least we expected is this unnecessary delay.
“Consultation shouldn’t be at this level. Consultation should have been before the tripartite committee. Consultation should have been when the tripartite committee started.

“Mr. President can summon or invite the leadership of labour and discuss with them. The labour leaders are Nigerians, they are people who also reason and, therefore, what we expect is that once Mr President provides the platform, they will naturally key in but where you have to shift the goalposts in the middle of the game doesn’t tell much and good for the government.

“So our advice is that Nigerian workers are feeling the heat more than any other person because we are the ones that oil the engine of the economy. And if you are expecting the best from the workers, you should be able to take care of their welfare and well-being, you should also make them feel secure within their places of work.

“But where they are handicapped, where they are starved, where there is hunger, there will naturally be anger, and there will be indiscipline. So, we ask Mr. President, to fast-track this consultation and make it snappy and the government needs to understand that the more you delay, the more you accumulate arrears and arrears must be paid.”

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