Governors can afford a reasonable minimum wage if they curb corruption – NLC

The Nigeria Labour Congress has said that governors only need to reduce the high cost of governance and lessen corruption to prioritise workers’ welfare to pay a fair national minimum wage.

The labour union made the statement via a press release issued by its Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah in response to the statement credited to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum that the N60,000 minimum wage earlier proposed by the Federal Government was too high and unsustainable.

The union said it is “alarmed” by the claim of the state governors that should they agree to pay N60,000 minimum wage “a few states will end up borrowing to pay workers every month.”

According to the NLC, the Governors’ actions were not in good faith, adding that such a declaration to be made public amid ongoing negotiations is unprecedented and not in good taste. The full statement is presented as follows:

FULL STATEMENT BY NLC

SAVE THE COUNTRY FROM A CERTAIN DEATH

We are alarmed by the statement credited to the Nigeria Governors Forum that state governments cannot even afford to pay N60,000 as minimum wage as “a few states will end up borrowing to pay workers every month”.

We do believe the Governors have acted in bad faith. It is unheard of for such a statement be issued to the world in the middle of an on-going negotiation. It is certainly in bad taste.

As for the veracity of their claim, nothing can be further from the truth as FAAC allocations have since moved from N700 billion to N1.2 trillion. making the governments extremely rich at the expense of the people.

All that the governors need to do to be able to pay a reasonable national minimum wage (not even the N60,000) is cut on the high cost of governance, minimise corruption as well as prioritise the welfare of workers.

It is important to explain here that a national minimum wage is not synonymous with the different pay structures of different states. The national minimum wage is the lowest floor below which no employer is allowed to pay. The aim is to protect the weak and the poor.

We are not fixated with figures but value. Those who argue that moving the national minimum wage from N30,000 to N60,000 is sufficiently good enough miss the point. In 2019, when N30,000 became the minimum, N300 exchanged for $1 (effectively making the minimum wage an equivalent of $100 or thereabout) while inflation rate was 11.40.

At the moment the exchange rate is at N1,600 to $1 while inflation hovers at 33.7% (40% for food). This puts the value of the minimum wage at $37.5 for a family of six. This is happening at a time costs of everything rose by more than 400% as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy. This is an extreme bad news for the poor.

Government’s policies of fuel subsidy removal, mindless devaluation of the Naira, energy tariff hike by 250% and interest rate hike by 26.5% will continue to hurt the economy (especially manufacturing sector) and the poor.

Already manifest is the mass incapacity of Nigerians leading to overflowing warehouses of the productive sector of the economy. The downward trend will continue except the capacity of workers and businesses is enhanced.

Paying a miserable national minimum wage portends grave danger to not only the workforce but the national economy as in truth, economies of most states are driven by workers wages.

In light of this, we urge the governors to do a re-think and save the country from a certain death.

Benson Upah
Head of Information and Public Affairs

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