• Inflation, major determinant of living wage negotiation, says NLC 

    Inflation major determinant of living wage negotiation says nlc - nigeria newspapers online
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    •  ‘We are open to negotiation’
    •  NLC, TUC to converge at organ level on alleged threats
    •  N615,000 not sufficient to make workers comfortable
    • Labour Party turned to money-making platform

    The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, said fuel subsidy removal accounts for much of the new minimum wage demand, raising what labour would have considered a fair demand by as much as 200 per cent.

    According to him, inflation would be a major determinant in the ongoing negotiation for a living wage, adding that the present minimum wage has remained insufficient due to the rising cost of goods and services.

    The NLC President said this, yesterday when he led the Congress’ leadership on a courtesy call to the Rutam House, The Guardian, for mutual collaboration and pursuit of workers’ interests nationwide.

    Ajaero added that the proposed N615,000 wage could be undermined by the spiralling inflation, adding that in the next two months, N1 million would not be enough as a salary for a Nigerian worker if the current economic realities persist.

    Considering government’s fiscal deficit and how labour would strike a balance between its demands and prevailing conditions, Ajaero said the N615,000 proposal was the most realistic wage that could be sought.

    During an interview session, the unionist said the organised labour would have perhaps requested for N200,000 wage floor if fuel prices remained at less than N200 per litre – the going price before the removal of fuel subsidy.

    On May 29, 2024, President Bola Tinubu, minutes after taking the oath of office, removed the age-long fuel subsidy, paving the way for an over 200 per cent increase in the prices of the white commodity and escalating prices across the board.

    He told The Guardian editorial team yesterday that the N615,000 minimum wage being requested is a modest demand and the NLC leadership has secured the support of its affiliate bodies and local chapters to engage the government to ensure it scales through.

    According to him, the amount, which is close to 2000 per cent of the current wage floor, is even considerably less than the level of financial compensation required to make an average worker comfortable. The request could be as much as N1 million given the speed at which the cost of living has increased in the past year.

    He argued that inflation has made a mess of the current wage template and that political officeholders whose allowances and salaries “have been increased in the recent years unknown to many Nigerians” could not continue to play the ostrich.

    Inflation major determinant of living wage negotiation says nlc - nigeria newspapers onlineInflation major determinant of living wage negotiation says nlc - nigeria newspapers online

    Joe Ajaero, President Tinubu, and Festus Osifo

    Considering the government’s poor fiscal position and how labour would strike a balance between its demands and the current realities, Ajaero said the N615,000 wage figure is the most realistic wage labour could ask for. He insisted that it would not be too high for a government that prioritises workers’ welfare to pay.

    On how organised labour arrived at the figure N615,000, the labour chief referenced the United Nations’ $2 per person per day poverty line. For a six-member family, he said, the figure translates to $360 for a month.

    He said these are all the factors that organised labour put into consideration and submitted as its proposal to the federal government.

    However, Ajaero maintained that labour is open for negotiation, stressing that nobody should shy away from the current realities.

    The labour leader said he expected the government to call labour for negotiation, noting that the figure is measured on a cost-of-living basis, considering factors such as inflation.

    Ajaero was increasingly uncomfortable with the culture of silence from the government even when the new wage was supposed to have started. With time, he said, the NLC may not be able to contain the anger of workers across the country.

    He said labour has a proviso that if other factors, including inflation, are checked, the demand could also change.
    On what should be the minimum amount should the government begin negotiation, he said: “As of today, what we have presented is the minimal amount. If anything changes, including inflation and the cost of living tomorrow, it can influence our demand.

    “But as of today, this is what we have and I have not been given the authority to add or minus. With the electricity tariff hike we should have started looking at tariffs to add but that is what we have now, I can’t adjust but whatever we have with the government as we proceed, we will get back to our principals, who happen to be our organ.

    “For electricity, they calculate their tariff based on inflation and the value currency and these are factors not within our control, because when they increase tariff, it creates inflation and they still go back for another and tariff also increases and it continues to go round.
    “Look at the tax regime, we have not factored in what they are taxing workers across sectors. That is what is open for the government to negotiate with labour and if they now tell us that N30,000 can solve this problem or N100,000 then negotiation starts.  There is already a proposal that made our presentation, we expect the government to respond and that would form our basis for negotiation. What we are asking is based on the cost-of-living index.”

    Already, organised labour has warned that the trade union movement in Nigeria would no longer guarantee industrial peace in the country if the government does not conclude the negotiation for a new minimum wage by May end.

    Inflation major determinant of living wage negotiation says nlc - nigeria newspapers onlineInflation major determinant of living wage negotiation says nlc - nigeria newspapers online


    This is also as the congresses have threatened to occupy offices of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and those of the Distribution Companies (DisCos) nationwide if the government does not comply to reverse the electricity tariff hike across the nation from N225/kWh to N65/kWh before Sunday, May 12.

    Ajaero and his TUC counterpart, Festus Osifo, gave the threat during Workers’ Day in Abuja.

    On the alleged threat, the NLC chief said the two labour centres would meet to determine the next line of action.

    He said: “If negotiation is not concluded by May end, we will get back to our organs and the meeting would involve all unions in the country and all the state councils for us to take our stand.

    “Also, with the May 13 threat for electricity tariff hike, we will mobilise our workers. It has to be collective. I am not acting alone.”
    He said notwithstanding that members of the Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) are at par with organised labour, they always have their way of survival.

    He said if inflation goes up, they increase the prices of their products.
    But for government workers, he said that salaries remain static until there is a call for a new national minimum wage.

    Ajaero, gave an update on what transpired between the NLC and the Labour Party (LP) when asked about his interest in the matter if he was not partisan.

    “It is because I am sitting in the position as the NLC head, I have to wade in. NLC is not synonymous with LP. It is the fact that those running the party went outside the purpose the party was formed.
    “The people there made the party a money-making venture. The party was formed to give room for the masses to have an opportunity to run for elective positions and we can’t keep quiet that things will run out of hand,” he said.

    Also, he boasted about how the NLC has removed officers based on alleged corruption.

    Noting that Congress has zero tolerance for corruption, he said on those misappropriating public funds, labour was prepared to step in when informed and would write to the appropriate authorities.

    However, in addressing this, he said there was a need to raise the moral standard of workers to be allergic to corruption.

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