FG, NLC And Private Sector Weigh In On Dispute Over Labour’s Minimum Wage Demand

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Labour unions and private sector representatives are clashing over a new minimum wage demand in Nigeria. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) initially sought a monthly minimum wage of N615,000 but has since lowered its request to N497,000.

 

NLC President Joe Ajaero argued at the annual Vanguard Economic Discourse that the wage increase is necessary to meet the rising cost of living. He pointed out that prices for essential goods and services such as food, transportation, and electricity have sharply increased.

 

Ajaero used examples to illustrate his point, noting that a bag of rice now costs about N84,000 and filling a gas cylinder costs around N16,000 to N17,000. He argued that a family of six needs at least N270,000 monthly just for basic survival.

 

He also referenced international standards, citing the United Nations’ recommendation that no person should live on less than $2 a day. For a family of six, this amounts to about $360 a month, which translates to roughly N497,000 at current exchange rates.

 

On the other hand, economic expert Bismarck Rewane countered that such a high minimum wage is not practical. He emphasised that wage adjustments should take into account the overall economic conditions and the ability of both public and private sectors to sustain these wages.

 

Rewane highlighted past experiences where wage increases led to manageable inflation rates, but insisted that the proposed figure would be difficult to support without negative economic consequences. He suggested that productivity and realistic negotiations should guide the wage discussion.

 

The Presidency also weighed in, deeming the NLC’s demand as unrealistic. Special Adviser to the President, Bayo Onanuga, argued that the government’s current financial situation and bloated workforce make such a wage hike unfeasible.

 

Onanuga suggested that instead of focusing solely on wage increases, efforts should be made to reduce living costs through measures such as affordable housing and cheaper transportation. He noted that previous wage hikes have not necessarily improved workers’ living standards due to rising inflation.

 

The Government expressed concerns that many states struggle to pay the existing N30,000 minimum wage, casting doubt on their ability to meet the proposed N497,000 figure. This situation highlights broader issues of economic management and corruption within Nigeria.

 

As discussions continue, it remains clear that finding a balanced and sustainable solution to the minimum wage issue is crucial for improving the livelihoods of Nigerian workers without destabilising the economy.

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