The current N18,000 minimum wage, being paid to Nigerian workers is an insult as declared by THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), while the N56,000 they jointly proposed to the government a year ago is grossly inadequate.
Deputy President of NLC and Chairman, May Day Planning Committee, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, made this known when he spoke exclusively with Sunday Tribune, in Abuja on the issue of minimum wage and the workers protest against top government official that disrupted the May Day rally at Eagles Square, Abuja.
Following the ugly incidence that forced the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, the Speaker, House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari; and other top government functionaries out of the May Day venue, the Federal Government held a crucial meeting with labour last Tuesday.
While justifying happened during the May Day, Comrade Adeyemi, who is also the General Secretary of NASU, said Nigerian workers are being insulted with the minimum wage of N18, 000.
He stated that the N56,000 earlier proposed is now less than $200 per month is grossly inadequate, hence, labour cannot afford to be flexible during negotiation by the Tripartite Committee on minimum to be set up any moment from now.
With the present economic reality, he pointed out that labour will not shift its position on its earlier demand for N56,000, adding that labour will not go into negotiation with government and failed to achieve anything.
He said:”The truth of the matter is that it is not possible for labour to go into a struggle like this and come out with nothing. It has never happened and it is not going to happen in our time.
“It is as simple as that. It is not going to happen in our time because everything points to the fact that what is currently paid is clearly an insult.”
Comrade Adeyemi added: Why won’t be rigid? In the face of all these wastages and stealing, will you as a labour leader go and ask for Peanut? I don’t think you will do that and that is not the position of Labour.
“If we go there and we are talking about the flexibility of labour even before we start, it means that we are not serious, it means that we didn’t do our work well that we don’t have justification for our demand.
“Before that amount was put to government, labour has done its own work properly, put into consideration everything now, if you look at the cost of food in 2011, when we had the last minimum wage and now, everything has changed.”
He pointed out that today, N18,000 cannot buy a bag of rice, while N56,000 cannot pay for a return ticket from Abuja to Lagos.
Adeyemi said: “So what I am saying is that ideally, N56,000 is grossly inadequate as minimum wage if you take statistics and data of minimum wage across the range of countries in Europe and in some Africa countries.
“What we are demanding for here is that if the will is there, it’s something that is doable. N56,000 cannot pay for a return ticket from Lagos to Abuja and Abuja to Lagos. There is no magic about that. The economy is bastardized, bargaining power of the people has being decimated, there are thieves everywhere in government.”
labour is already putting in place strategies to confront the governors, adding, “I am sure I will tell you that the labour leaders are strategizing as to how to confront these people.”
He regretted that some of the governors were kicking against were taking between N400 million and N1 billion monthly for security votes which they don’t account for, adding that they took that position so that they would have enough money to play around.
“My take on this is that those saying that are clearly insincere, dis-honest, they are people who want a lot of money to be floating so that they can steal the money and amongst the elements are governors who are pushing that even N18,000 they cannot pay.
“But these are the same elements that collect every month N300million, N400million, N500million, N1billion as security vote without accounting for the money.”
He also warned that the fight against corruption won’t be won if workers are paid poorly.
He emphasized that the action of workers at the May Day rally in Abuja was not a surprise to him, rather, he said the action was positive.
“It is a very positive development. Don’t be surprised I am sounding like this because there is tendency for people in Government to think that it’s the leadership of labour that is deliberately fomenting trouble in the country; that we don’t have the backing of our members.
“They have seen themselves that look, if we tell them something that they need to move fast on this matter, they have every reason to listen to us because those workers are already out of patient and they have seen it. So, for me it is positive.”