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Labour to negotiate minimum wage ‘commensurate with cost of living’

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is looking forward to negotiating a national minimum wage that will be “commensurate with the prevailing cost of living”, Labour leader Joe Ajaero has said.

Ajaero said the Congress will be open to the establishment of a living wage that covered “the cost of living and make allowance for some savings by the workers.”

The NLC president spoke yesterday at the opening of the 2023 harmattan school in Abuja, with the theme: “Building Trade Union skills for Policy Engagement.”

The national minimum wage signed into law in 2019 by former President Muhammadu Buhari is up for review next year.

The organised Labour, governors and the organised private sector are expected to arrive at a new minimum wage to replace the N30,000 in place.

Ajaero, who was represented by NLC Deputy President Benjamin Anthony, said: “It has become very necessary for governments at all levels to recognise that life and living conditions are exceedingly difficult, especially for working people in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

“The removal of subsidy on petroleum products has further exacerbated the challenges faced by working people, unleashing severe pain and contributing to galloping inflation and increasing inequality and poverty.

“We must reckon that a well-motivated and well-remunerated workforce has a positive impact on productivity and national development.

“As we anticipate the commencement of negotiations for the national minimum wage in 2024, we seek the understanding of all stakeholders to ensure that we use this opportunity to arrive at a minimum wage commensurate with the prevailing cost of living.

“The ultimate goal, though, is to establish a living wage that covers the cost of living and make allowance for some savings by the workers.

“Since the adoption of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in the mid-1980s and subsequent wholesale adoption of neoliberal economy framework, there has been a sustained disruption of the social pillars of society through the pullback of public spending on the provision of social services.

“These austerity measures have significantly impacted on the quality of life of workers, peasants and the poor, thus creating an urgent need for collaboration with broad segment of the society to form a formidable force for sustained policy engagement with the governments at all levels.”

The NLC president said the only thing that can assuage the pains of its members was for the Imo State Government to address all Labour issues and return the “so-called ‘ghost workers’ to their jobs, pay all outstanding salaries and pensions and call back all victimised workers to their jobs.”

He added: “In the face of adversity and brutality encountered while advocating for the rights of workers to earn their legitimate income and benefits, our resolve remains unwavering.

“We are motivated to continue our efforts towards achieving decent work and improving working conditions in the formal and informal sectors of the economy.

“The recent assault on workers and their leaders in Imo State poses a grave threat to freedom of association and collective bargaining as enshrined in Section 40 of the 1999 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and the ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, and should unequivocally be condemned by all people of goodwill.

“The only thing that can assuage our pains is for the Imo State Government to address all Labour issues and return the so called ‘ghost workers’ to their jobs, pay all outstanding salaries and pensions and call back all victimised workers to their jobs.”

The Director, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Vanessa Phala said trade unions remained “critical stakeholders in promoting workers’ rights, improving working conditions, and advancing social and economic justice.”

She said: “The world of work is undergoing rapid changes, driven by technological advances, climate change, globalisation, and shifting social and economic trends. These changes are affecting workers and trade unions, posing new challenges and opportunities for collective action and advocacy.

“Trade unions remain critical stakeholders in promoting workers’ rights, improving working conditions, and advancing social and economic justice.

“Against this context, there is no better time than now for a serious and strategic reflection on the role that organised Labour execute in policy engagement and dialogue.”

She said the ILO would continue to place particular emphasis on “strengthening the institutional capacity of employers’ and workers’ organisations to develop forward-looking solutions to sustain and improve operations to reinforce their representative, leadership, and advocacy roles, while renewing membership strategies, service provision and delivery mechanisms, and enhancing policy advocacy and influence.”

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