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Tinubu seeks social justice, equity with new minimum wage

Tinubu asks Senate to confirm Cardoso, 11 others as chairman, members of MPC

…Inaugurates tripartite committee

…As NLC, TUC, NACCIMA lament effects of inflation, FX crisis

President Bola Tinubu, on Tuesday, charged the tripartite committee on new national minimum wage, to consult with social partners to ensure equity and justice for all in the determination of a new minimum wage for the country.

The president gave the charge while inaugurating the committee at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Nigeria currently pays N30,000 as minimum wage.

Tinubu, represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, said the Federal Government was going into the new minimum regime because of the need to ensure a fair and decent living wage, and in compliance with the National Minimum Wage Act.

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According to him, the government had set in motion mechanisms to assemble the tripartite committee to chart a future that aligns with every stakeholder’s interests.

He noted that while the decision to save the economy was inevitable, “We are not unaware of the short-term consequences. We believe that the government is a continuum, and, as such, we have intervened in the systemic delays that undermined our economic growth.

He added: “The issue of a National Minimum Wage for the Federation falls within the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Therefore, our objective should be to surpass the basic social protection floor for all Nigerian workers, considering the sustainable payment capacity of each tier of government and other employers or businesses.

“I express this viewpoint because the minimum wage represents the least amount of compensation an employee should receive for their labour, and as such, it should be rooted in social justice and equity. I hope that the results of your deliberations will be consensual and acceptable to all parties involved.

“The government’s decision, following the consideration of your final recommendation, will be presented as an executive bill to the National Assembly. This bill, enriched by the contributions of state governments and private sector employers, will undergo thorough legislative scrutiny before being passed into law”

The president stated that the final decision should be in tandem with the core provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Minimum Wage Fixing Convention No. 131 and Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention No. 26, both of which have been ratified by Nigeria.

He described the labour force as the cornerstone of the progress of every nation, adding that “ours has been an enduring engine of our pursuit of development”.

The president noted that the tripartite committee, comprising the government, employers, and labour unions, has been carefully selected for the crucial task of renegotiating a new national minimum wage for workers in Nigeria.

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“Our sense of duty today thrives on both our sensitivity to the conditions of the Nigerian worker and the impending expiration of the last minimum wage instrument in a few months.

“Since the removal of the subsidy, various committees have been established to examine and make recommendations to the government on measures to cushion the envisaged painful effects of the increase on workers and the Nigerian populace at large. I am pleased to share that action has since commenced on the implementation of the outcome of those agreements and initiatives.

“I encourage all of you to engage in collective bargaining in good faith, recognise each other, and maintain a spirit of give and take. Additionally, please continue your consultations outside the committee as you work towards recommending a new national minimum wage,” he said.

Nkiru Onyejeocha, the minister of State for Labour and Employment, in her remarks, charged the committee to expedite action and ensure that issues around the minimum wage were completed before the April deadline

“Everything we’re going to do must end before April 1. There’s no delaying because it is something that is backed by law and we must obey the law”.

Festus Osifo, president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), lamented that workers were facing an excruciating period, assuring that the negotiation would stand out.

“As of the time we proposed N200,000 minimum wage, if you can recall, inflation had not gotten to where it is today. Also, at that time, the official exchange rate was somewhere around N450 to $1. At the parallel market, the rate was somewhere around N700 to $1. “But today, all these have been shattered.

“What that means is that we’ll go back to the drawing board because Nigerian workers are battered as we speak; I mean the pay today is nothing,” said Osifo.

On his part, Joe Ajaero, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the outcome will depend on the commitment of the Federal Government

“What is going to happen will depend on the commitment from the government and the negotiators.

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“If the workers today are expectant, they want a robust minimum wage, I believe there won’t be any rigidity coming from the angle of the government. So I’m in line with what my TUC president said”

Humphrey Ngonadi, national president of the National Association of Chamber of Commerce (NACCIMA), expressed concern that the new minimum wage may be eroded by inflation and urged the Federal Government to first work on inflation

“If a worker is paid N1 million as a minimum wage and a bag of rice is N900,000, the N1 million still has no meaning. So, as we are thinking of hiking the salary of the workers, the government should think of how that money will add value.”