Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola has advised the Nigerian workers not to outstretch their luck by insisting on a minimum wage that might prove difficult to implement.
Mr. Aregbesola who also doubles as the Chairman, Technical Sub-committee of the Tripartite Committee on national minimum wage, said current economic realities in the country might not support wage increase for workers.
He also warned them to reconsider their stand by sticking to an emolument that might be implementable and douse further controversies.
He gave the advice at the public hearing on national minimum wage held at the National Universities Commission auditorium in Abuja on Thursday.
Recall that workers in the country under the auspices of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) had been agitating for a new minimum wage to check rising inflation on their monthly earnings.
They are asking the Federal Government to shore up the national minimum wage from N18,000 to N66,500.
The NLC in its presentation argued that N66, 500 is fair enough for a government that is serious about the welfare of workers to implement.
Recently when the country was hit with recession, most states governors were unable to pay the current minimum wage of N18,000.
The Governor said the task of the committee couldn’t be adequately carried out without the due consultation which this public hearing provides.
He said, “We have all along been concentrating on cost of living which is also important. However, in your contribution, let us also look at productivity index so as to get the best for the economy. By so doing, we will be enriching the outcome of this debate and making it less controversial and more amenable to implementation.
President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, said each time the issue of minimum wage is raised, the issue of ability to pay has always come up.
He however said the idea of the minimum wage is to protect the most vulnerable worker which cut across both the public and private sector.
He said, “The minimum wage means the minimum below which no employer of Labour should pay. We all know that workers work to earn a living and not just for the purpose of working or because you want to be a Good Samaritan.
“Every worker works to earn a decent living and that is the context of the minimum wage. Even the most capitalist country in the world, the United States, has a minimum wage, but some states pay higher.
“I have heard the argument that the call for minimum wage is trying to bring about an equal wage across the states of the federation. That is not true. When we signed the minimum wage in 2011, some states offered to pay more than N18, 000. What we are saying is that you need to have a minimum, while across the country, you can pay higher. This also applies to the private sector.”
He said the minimum wage review is evidence-based anywhere in the world, stressing that the current N18, 000 is no longer good enough.
In his presentation, the FCT Minister, Mohammed Bella represented by the Director Human Resources Management, FCTA, Hajiya Amina Abubakar, urged the committee members to address their minds also to other critical issues that pose threats to workers pay packages.
He said we all would agree that the current wage structure which begins with the N18,000 minimum wage falls short of what is required to guarantee a minimum living standard in the economy today.
He said, “Since it came into force in 2011, series of economic forces including inflation have eroded its purchasing power. On a closer look, this only amount to N600 per day and indeed less than 2 dollar per day. It clearly put the earning power of the Nigerian worker even below the poverty bracket defined by the international development institutions.”