ON April 19, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the bill into law pertaining to the increase in the minimum wage of the Nigeria worker from 18,000 to N30, 000 after hectic and sometimes heated negotiations which dragged on unnecessarily between the organized labour, private sector and government. This was after about eight years when the last minimum wage was affected, just as the minimum wage law stipulates that it should be reviewed after every five years.
WITH workers across the country heave a sigh of relieve believing that, at last, the long awaited increase in their take-home pay has become a reality. Alas, this was not to be as government and labour have been locked in an endless tussle over consequential variation of the payment of the new wage, long expected by workers. To further over-heat the minimum wage brouhaha, the minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, was recently quoted as saying, the Federal Government would require N580 billion to pay with the “alternative” being retrenchment.
THE minister asked labour to accept the consequential adjustment from levels 7 to 17. It will be recalled that government had told labour unions that it could pay only 9.5 percent salary increase for employees on grade level 07-14 and five percent for those on levels 15 to 17. However, labour is demanding 30 percent for officers on levels 07 to 14 and 25 per cent for those on grade levels 15 to 17. This was after labour made pains taking adjustment from its earlier 66.66 percent which translates to the new minimum wage of N30, 000.
WE believe that, this altercation goes beyond the agreement on percentages. Why should government be seen to be reneging on its earlier agreement to pay the N30, 000 minimum wages? Was the formula of paying in percentages an afterthought? Why should labour….. .to be shifting ground while government has remain adamant in its position? The essence of negotiation is for both parties to be considerate, consider one another and shift position in the name of compromise. Therefore, it seems there is no truth in the proposal of percentage. It is akin to an endless delay tactics!
IT is altruism that since the announcement of the new minimum wage, prices of goods and services have skyrocketed. Prices of virtually everything have jump to the roof top, yet, the Nigerian worker don’t know what is happening because, he or she is yet to receive the new pay. There must be sincerity of purpose from the government as the Nigerian workers’ present pay is “suffocating” under inflationary trend since it is perceived that, wages have been increased.
TO further compound the problems of the Nigerian worker, government has announced increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT). This clearly is an added burden to the worker and coming in the midst of the minimum wage, is giving with the right hand and taking back with the left hand. While government is threatening to down-size or retrench its workforce, if it must pay the minimum wage, we urge that the danger of this should be put in its proper perspective. With the already saturated unemployment market, an addition to it will certainly be explosive.
WE therefore call on the government to expedite action in paying the minimum wage without delay. The government’s words must be its bond. We equally urge labour to be resolute, stead fast and determined with its demand. Labour should not allow Nigerian workers to be sacrificed in the name of retrenchment or any guise because of the long-overdue minimum wage issue. Labour should never be intimidated!