A pay raise is likely for workers in the public service to cushion the effect of the global economic downturn the Federal Government hinted on Monday.
The government admitted that inflation has eroded the purchasing power of workers who are on N30, 000 minimum monthly wage.
Labour and Employment Minister Senator Chris Ngige dropped the hint at the public presentation of a compendium of ‘Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at 40’ publication titled: “Contemporary history of working class struggles,” in Abuja.
He spoke after Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Festus Osifo noted that workers have been subjugated and oppressed by the ruling class.
The minister said the adjustment had become imperative to reflect what is happening across the globe.
Ngige said: “The inflation is worldwide. We shall adjust the minimum wage in conformity with what is happening and much more importantly, the 2019 Minimum Wage Act has a new clause for a review.”
He added “that adjustment has started with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) because the stage they are with their primary employers, the Ministry of Education, there is Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
There is concern however, that government’s consideration for the minimum wage review may be a hoax as it may be an exercise in futility because many states are not able to pay the existing wage. Of what use would be an upward review of the existing wage if workers will not benefit from it? some concerned workers are asking.
“Under the principles of offer and acceptance, which is that of collective Bargaining, ASUU can say let’s look at the offer they gave us and make counter offer, but they have not done that. If they do that, we are bound to look at their offer. These are the ingredients of collective negotiations,” Ngige stated.
The minister noted that Labour created the wealth of any nation as well as the wealth of any family, adding that “if you don’t work, you won’t eat.”
Osifo lamented that the N30, 000 minimum wage was no longer feasible in the current economic circumstances, stressing that workers’ transportation fare to work for a month is in excess of their take home pay.
The TUC leader said: “The value of the N30, 000 minimum wage has been eroded. It cannot take workers to work again.”
Osifo, who noted that the Labour movement in the country is committed to protection of interest of workers, stressed that if not for the struggle of the founding fathers of the movement, the story would have been different today. He urged government to recognise the power of agreement.
Former NLC President Adams Oshiomhole advised Labour leaders to interrogate those aspiring to be president on their policies and manifesto on the economy.
Oshiomhole carpeted state governors who have failed to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage because of lack of funds.
He said: “The other day I saw some councils’ chairmen in a state where the N30,000 minimum wage was not being paid, and I saw NLC chairmen in those states praising these governors, even giving them awards. Where is the conscience?
“At the governors’ forum when we were debating the whole idea of whether N18, 000 was reasonable, or we should deregulate minimum wage and let every state pay according to its ability, we had a Labour Party Governor in the person of Olusegun Mimiko, who supported those who said minimum wage should be abolished, deregulated according to the ability to pay.
“And I said to him: ‘When you are buying your Toyota bulletproof car, you pay the same price as Lagos. You probably will pay more depending on how much you mark it up.
“Nothing can be more humiliating to you as workers than somebody who is elected on your platform, taking a position that is completely in conflict with what you stand for.
“And that is why I will conclude by saying that all of us should look carefully. I have even told APC candidates. If you pursue absolute market forces, you don’t have me on your side because what brought us to this situation, talking about history, we must document the characters of government we interface with.
“So, if you say you do not want market forces, say so now to those who want to be president. I want you to use this moment to know that there is no such thing as a good person in government or a bad person – or a short person and a tall person. What will determine your fate are the policy choices that those in government consciously make.”