The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said the commencement of negotiation of the new National Minimum Wage in 2024 would be based on the prevailing cost of living in the country.
Mr Joe Ajaero, NLC President, said this at the ongoing 19th edition of the NLC 2023 Harmattan School, organised by the Congress on Tuesday in Abuja.
The theme is “Building Workers’ Skills for Policy Engagement”.
The Harmattan School is part of the NLC National Schools, where it trains and empowers affiliated union members through skills development.
Ajaero, represented by Mr Benjamin Anthony, Vice-President of NLC, said it was necessary for government at all levels to recognise that life and living conditions are exceedingly difficult.
“The removal of subsidies on petroleum products has further worsened the challenges working people face.
“That unleashes severe pain and contributes to galloping inflation and increasing inequality and poverty.
“We must reckon that a well-motivated and well-remunerated workforce positively impacts productivity and national development.
“As we anticipate negotiations for the National Minimum Wage in 2024.
“We seek the understanding of all stakeholders to ensure that we use this opportunity to arrive at a minimum wage commensurate with the prevailing cost of living,’” he said.
He said that the ultimate goal is to establish a living wage that covers the cost of living and makes allowance for some savings by the workers.
Ajaero said that the recent assault on workers and their leaders in Imo poses a grave threat to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“This is as enshrined in Section 40 of the 1999 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and the ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.
“All people of goodwill should unequivocally condemn this. The only thing that can assuage our pains is for the Imo Government to address all labour issues.
“They are also to return the so-called ‘ghost workers’ to their jobs, pay all outstanding salaries and pensions and call back all victimised workers to their jobs,”he said.
On the event’s theme, he said it was apt given the importance of skill and knowledge in policy processes and engagements.
“In the ever changing world of work, as trade unions, we should prepare ourselves to engage with the employers in the workplace and government in the interest of the workers and the masses.
“In order to efficiently engage in any policy, the trade unions must equip their members to understand policy making processes, its implementation, monitoring and evaluation,”he said.
Speaking, Dr Vanessa Phala, ILO Country Director to Nigeria, said the world of work was undergoing rapid changes, driven by technological advances and climate change, among others.
She said that these changes were affecting workers and trade unions, thereby posing new challenges and opportunities for collective action and advocacy.
She says trade unions remain critical stakeholders in promoting workers’ rights, improving working conditions, and advancing social and economic justice.
“Against this context, there is no better time than now for a serious and strategic reflection on organised labour’s role in policy engagement and dialogue.
“This 19th edition is dedicated to reflecting on the pertinent question ‘’how can trade unions build power and transform their organisations in the context of rapidly changing economic and labour market policies’.
“The need for strong, democratic, independent, and representative workers’ organisations, effective and adequately resourced labour administrations.
“Also the robust and inclusive social dialogue institutions and processes remain fundamental, especially in times of crisis and recovery,”she said.
She added that these institutions are the bedrock of labour market governance, a prerequisite for social justice and the building blocks for the delivery of policy engagement driven decent work solutions.
Phala said policy engagement was a facet of social dialogue and that for the ILO, social dialogue in all its forms was crucial for policy coherence and effective crisis and resilience management.
“It is also a key governance instrument in managing and responding to transformations in the world of work.
“In this regard, the exigency of the theme of the 19th Harmattan School becomes even more pertinent, especially in elaborating the role trade unions play in policy engagement.
“This is particularly as it relates to advancing policy options for improved governance and conditions of the working people in Nigeria ”she added.