President, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, weekend, in Lagos, said private and public employers in the country were convinced that the N18,000 national minimum wage was no longer realistic, considering the present socio-economic indices in the country.
His statement came a few days after the Technical Committee on Minimum Wage submitted its report. Speaking after the sendforth ceremony of the immediate past President-General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, Wabba insisted that N56,000 being demanded by congress was not out of place because of the high cost of living at present.
He argued that despite apparent opposition by private employers, represented by Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, NECA, NLC was sure that stakeholders would all support a new wage for workers who had all along been treated as slaves.
He said: “We need to be very forthcoming in doing what is right. In other quarters, if you listen very carefully, they are talking about ability to pay. I thought what labour did was to be very calculative. Not only that, to look at the feasibility, because it doesn’t make sense that at the end of the day we will have difficulties.”
‘’ So, we have looked at the totality of the issues, including the challenges we are going through at the moment and we thought that what we have done is reasonable because what we have done is to look at what is the value of N18, 000 when it was signed looking at the inflation, looking at the purchasing power and looking at the ability to pay.
‘’So, I think we have been reasonable in making such demand and we hope also that other social partners will look at it from the perspective of us being very nationalistic in putting up those demands. I still want you to understand that workers presently cannot feed themselves because of the high cost of goods and services.
‘’Everybody has the right to his or her opinion, but the opinion of the workers is that it is legitimate but by law and practice. Five years cycle is legitimate and therefore, when we reach the bridge we will know how to cross it.
‘’Our opinion is also that workers have been pushed to the wall so, it’s time for the minimum wage to be reviewed both in law and practice because the cycle is due and inflation is biting very hard, high cost of goods and services is affecting workers seriously.
“Many workers cannot send their children to school, many cannot pay their rent, and many cannot even go to work regularly. Side by side with fighting corruption, if you don’t pay me to meet up with my bills we can’t fight corruption.
‘’What is the cost of living that will make me comfortable as a worker for 30 days with my family? All of us can reason and calculate all of that. All of you are workers and therefore, we can know all of these. So, let us be more reasonable. Workers should not be treated as slaves. So, those are the basis and those are the issues we are advancing.”