• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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N60,000 minimum wage, too high, unsustainable – Governors

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…As Labour chides SGF over Minimum Wage comments

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), on Friday, said the N60,000 new minimum wage, proposed by the federal government is unsustainable, as it is too high.

Halimah Ahmed, acting director, media and public affairs of the NGF stated this on Friday, as negotiation between the federal government and Organised Labour intensifies in Abuja.

The NGF position, coming on the heels of similar comment by George Akume, Secretary to the federal government, that he cannot afford N100,000 for each of his four drivers may provide clear indications for the reasons why the negotiations have dragged endlessly.

As at the time of filing this report, the tripartite committee meeting at the Nicon Luxury hotel , Abuja was still on.

Insider sources to BusinessDay that the meeting may drag into very late in the night, as it is a make or mar.

Recall that the organised labour have consistently insisted that the delays in arriving at an acceptable minimum wage, was based on “ government lack of seriousness over the minimum wage issues.

Since the commencement of the negotiations, the NGF is yet to offer any proposal on what the minimum wage should be.

But while the NGF in its statement on Friday, said it is in “agreement that a new minimum wage is due”, the Forum also said it sympathises with labour unions in their push for higher wages.

Read also: Minimum wage negotiations inconclusive, says Ajaero as presidency debunks N105,000 proposal rumour

The NGF however, urged “all parties to consider the fact that the minimum wage negotiations also involve consequential adjustments across all cadres, including pensioners.

“The NGF cautions parties in this important discussion to look beyond just signing a document for the sake of it; any agreement to be signed should be sustainable and realistic.

“All things considered, the NGF holds that the N60,000 minimum wage proposal is not sustainable and can not fly. It will simply mean that many states will spend all their FAAC allocations on just paying salaries with nothing left for development purposes. In fact, a few states will end up borrowing to pay workers every month.

“We do not think this will be in the collective interest of the country, including workers.

The statement appealed to “ all parties involved, especially the labour unions, consider all the socioeconomic variables and settle for an agreement that is sustainable, durable, and fair to all other segments of the society who have legitimate claim to public resources”

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in response to the statement credited to the SGF, expressed “disappointment and strong condemnation of the recent comments made by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) regarding the nationwide strike embarked upon by the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Read also: Minimum wage: Edun submits report to Tinubu, assures workers of “good figure”

The labour Union, in a statement by Benson Upah, Head, Information and Public Affairs, said “ SGF’s characterization of our legitimate and constitutionally protected industrial action as a “treasonable felony” and “economic sabotage” is not only deeply troubling but also undermines the spirit of constructive dialogue necessary for resolving the ongoing issues”

“The demands of the NLC and TUC are clear and just. We seek the conclusion and signing into law of a new national minimum wage that is in sync with the realities of the cost of living, a reversal of the hike in electricity tariff to ₦65/kWh, and an end to the discriminatory classification of electricity consumers into bands. These demands are grounded in the need for economic justice and fairness for all Nigerian workers and citizens”
Labour, while reacting to the characterisation of its actions as “treasonable and sabotage”, said those “who loot our treasury around the country, those who divert public resources meant for hospitals and schools; those who are involved in foreign exchange roundtripping; padding of budgets and inflating contracts including those who steal trillions of Naira in the name of subsidy are the real Economic saboteurs who commit treasonable felony.

“These people are in costly Agbada and drive in convoys all around the nation occupying the corridors of power and not innocent workers who are not slaves but chose to withdraw their services because of the inhuman treatment meted on them by the Government.”

The NLC described the SGF comments that he cannot afford to pay each of his four drivers ₦100,000 monthly, as “disheartening and a stark reminder of the disconnect between the government and the realities faced by ordinary Nigerians”

“Such statements do not contribute to the resolution of the issues at hand but rather exacerbate tensions.
“It is a clear demonstration that the SGF pays his personal staff starvation wages and may be telling us that he is a slave master.

“We may have to remind him that a 50kg bag of rice is N88,000 which leaves the worker with just N12,000 if he is to pay the paltry sum, he claims that he is unable to pay. Anyway, one wonders what the SGF does with four drivers alone?

Read also: Nigeria’s productivity level can’t support N400K minimum wage – Moghalu says

“We would also want to know what work justifies the huge salaries and allowances the SGF takes home all the time? Do we need to wonder too far why we are here as a nation when you have individuals with this mindset occupying sensitive positions in the corridors of power?”
“It is unfortunate that the SGF who presides over the Administration of the Executive arm of government which is one of the basic pillars of democracy and is supposed to be a protector and defender of democracy, its various institutions and practices would be seen making statements that negate these traditions and principles.

Labour said it rejects “ the unfortunate insinuations around the SGF’s remarks because strikes are not only legal but also a civic duty.

“We are surprised that the SGF will demonstrate such a glaring sense of unawareness to the understanding of the fact that when workers withdraw their services which is their right, machines cannot operate themselves so, they grind to a halt.

The NLC noted that “productive negotiations cannot occur under duress.

“The events of last week, where labour leaders were surrounded by military personnel during a negotiation exercise in the SGF’s office, were a clear violation of our rights and an intimidation tactic that has no place in a democratic society. We cannot and will not negotiate under such conditions which is what the SGF’s comments portend.

They called on the SGF to retract his statements and to approach the ongoing negotiation with the seriousness and respect it deserves.

“The path to resolving these issues lies in genuine dialogue and a commitment to addressing the legitimate concerns of Nigerian workers. We urge the government to engage with us in good faith, free from threats and intimidation.

“We are worried that despite the denials of the purpose of the military’s presence in the last negotiation exercise and the ensuing assurances that this sad statement may be an additional proof of what the original intentions may have been. We truly fear for the safety of the lives of our leaders and would want to be reassured to the contrary if we are to continue with this round of negotiation especially when government has not offered Nigerian workers anything tangible since after relaxing the nationwide strike.