Minimum Wage: FG Warns of Mass Layoffs as Labour Rejects Agreement

Nigeria Must Make Difficult Changes - Tinubu

The Federal Government on Wednesday cautioned organized Labour to consider the broader economic implications of demanding an unrealistic higher national minimum wage.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, warned that Labour’s demand for a N250,000 minimum wage could destabilize the economy, lead to mass layoffs, and jeopardize the welfare of Nigerians.

However, labour unions refuted President Bola Tinubu’s claim in his Democracy Day broadcast that an agreement on the new minimum wage had been reached.

Prince Adewale Adeyanju, Acting President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), clarified that no agreement had been finalized by the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage as of June 7. Adeyanju is currently acting on behalf of NLC President Joe Ajaero, who is attending an International Labour Organization conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

President Tinubu’s statement that an executive bill would soon be submitted to codify the wage agreements provoked union leaders. The prolonged negotiations saw unions insisting on a N250,000 minimum wage, while the Federal Government and the Organised Private Sector (OPS) offered N62,000. State governors argued they could not sustain a wage higher than N60,000.

Labour unions rejected the N62,000 offer, deeming it a “starvation wage.” Chris Onyeka, NLC Assistant General Secretary, stated that Labour would not accept the N62,000 offer or the N100,000 proposal from some individuals and economists.

At the opening of the 2024 Synod of the Charismatic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in Abuja, Minister Idris emphasized the need for a realistic wage system to avoid mass layoffs while addressing workers’ needs. He reiterated the government’s commitment to reassessing the minimum wage but cautioned against demands that could harm the economy.

Idris highlighted efforts to alleviate the cost of living, such as the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) program aimed at reducing transportation expenses by 50%. He stressed the importance of holistic relief measures beyond salary adjustments and urged Labour to recognize the significance of such programs.

The Minister called on religious leaders to help raise public awareness about government initiatives, emphasizing their role in disseminating information about the government’s ongoing efforts and available opportunities.

Archbishop Leonard Kawas, National President of the Charismatic Bishop Conference, reaffirmed the organization’s support for Tinubu’s administration and commitment to collaborative efforts to achieve the nation’s collective aspirations.

In response to Tinubu’s broadcast, Adeyanju dismissed the President’s assertion of a wage agreement, suggesting he was misled by his advisers. The NLC official maintained that no agreement had been reached and that Labour’s demand remained at N250,000.

Adeyanju also alleged that labour leaders were intimidated by security agencies during the minimum wage talks, expressing hope that President Tinubu’s democratic principles would ultimately favor Nigerian workers.

The NLC emphasized that no agreement on the duration of the Minimum Wage Act had been reached and reiterated their demand for a living wage, rejecting any figure approximating a starvation wage. The labour movement called for justice, equity, and fairness for all Nigerians, urging President Tinubu to fulfill his promise of a living wage.

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