ENUGU, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Joe Ajaero, has hinted at the possibility of advocating for a new minimum wage of up to N1 million for Nigerian workers if the current inflationary trends persist unchecked.
Ajaero emphasized that the demand for this substantial increase would be driven by the escalating cost of living, exacerbated by recent policy changes such as the removal of fuel subsidy, since President Bola Tinubu assumed office.
During an interview with Arise News, Ajaero highlighted the impact of inflation on the purchasing power of citizens, citing examples such as the soaring prices of essential commodities like rice and corn.
He underscored the need for the government to consider these factors in ongoing wage negotiations, especially as the current minimum wage is set to expire in April.
Expressing skepticism about the effectiveness of the government’s approach to addressing wage issues, Ajaero raised concerns about the composition of the newly inaugurated minimum wage committee and its ability to deliver meaningful outcomes, given the track record of some members.
He said, “This N1 million may be relevant if the value of the Nigerian (naira) continues to depreciate; if the inflation continues unchecked because the demand of labour is equally dependent on what is happening in the society.
“You will remember that by the time we were contemplating N200,000 (as minimum wage), the exchange rate was about N800/N900 (to a dollar). As we talk today, the exchange rate is about N1,400 or even more.
“Those are the issues that determine the demand and it is equally affecting the cost of living. And we have always said that our demand will be based on the cost of living index. You will agree with me today that even a bag of rice is going for about N60,000/N70,000 or more.
“A bag of locally produced corn is about N56,000 or more. Foodstuff is getting out of reach, now are we going to get a minimum wage that will not be enough for transportation even for one week?
“You have to factor in these issues and that will determine the Federal Government’s commitment to this negotiation. It is not just that they want to give us a minimum wage.
“The old minimum wage will be expiring by April and ordinarily, the Federal Government ought to have set up a committee six months before that time so that negotiation would have commenced but the Federal Government didn’t do that until (recently when) they inaugurated a committee and the committee has not sat.
“It appears we are going to work within one month or two to agree on a figure and I doubt how those ones are going to… especially when you look at the people that the Federal Government assembled as members of the committee.
“They looked at some of the governors that are not paying even the existing minimum wage and even they have a minister of budget who didn’t implement his minimum wage as a governor.
“If you have these people in the government team on the issue of minimum wage, some of us have not seen a bright future in the work of this new minimum wage committee.”
Recently, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) issued a 14-day strike notice to the Federal Government of Nigeria, citing dissatisfaction with its failure to implement a previous agreement aimed at mitigating the adverse effects of policies such as the increase in petrol prices and currency devaluation.
With the clock ticking on the ultimatum, the unions are pressing for swift action from the government to fulfill its commitments and alleviate the economic hardships faced by Nigerian workers.