A pay raise is likely for workers in the public service to cushion the effect of the global economic downturn the Federal Government hinted yesterday.
The government admitted that inflation has eroded the purchasing power of workers who are on N30, 000 minimum monthly wage.
Labour and Employment Minister Senator Chris Ngige dropped the hint at the public presentation of a compendium of ‘Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at 40’ publication titled: “Contemporary history of working class struggles,” in Abuja.
He spoke after Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Festus Osifo noted that workers have been subjugated and oppressed by the ruling class.
The minister said the adjustment had become imperative to reflect what is happening across the globe.
Ngige said: “The inflation is worldwide. We shall adjust the minimum wage in conformity with what is happening and much more importantly, the 2019 Minimum Wage Act has a new clause for a review.”
He added “that adjustment has started with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) because the stage they are with their primary employers, the Ministry of Education, there is Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
There is concern however, that government’s consideration for the minimum wage review may be a hoax as it may be an exercise in futility because many states are not able to pay the existing wage. Of what use would be an upward review of the existing wage if workers will not benefit from it? some concerned workers are asking.
“Under the principles of offer and acceptance, which is that of collective Bargaining, ASUU can say let’s look at the offer they gave us and make counter offer, but they have not done that. If they do that, we are bound to look at their offer. These are the ingredients of collective negotiations,” Ngige stated.
The minister noted that Labour created the wealth of any nation as well as the wealth of any family, adding that “if you don’t work, you won’t eat.”
Osifo lamented that the N30, 000 minimum wage was no longer feasible in the current economic circumstances, stressing that workers’ transportation fare to work for a month is in excess of their take home pay.
The TUC leader said: “The value of the N30, 000 minimum wage has been eroded. It cannot take workers to work again.”
Osifo, who noted that the Labour movement in the country is committed to protection of interest of workers, stressed that if not for the struggle of the founding fathers of the movement, the story would have been different today. He urged government to recognise the power of agreement.
Former NLC President Adams Oshiomhole advised Labour leaders to interrogate those aspiring to be president on their policies and manifesto on the economy.
Oshiomhole carpeted state governors who have failed to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage because of lack of funds.
He said: “The other day I saw some councils’ chairmen in a state where the N30,000 minimum wage was not being paid, and I saw NLC chairmen in those states praising these governors, even giving them awards. Where is the conscience?
“At the governors’ forum when we were debating the whole idea of whether N18, 000 was reasonable, or we should deregulate minimum wage and let every state pay according to its ability, we had a Labour Party Governor in the person of Olusegun Mimiko, who supported those who said minimum wage should be abolished, deregulated according to the ability to pay.
“And I said to him: ‘When you are buying your Toyota bulletproof car, you pay the same price as Lagos. You probably will pay more depending on how much you mark it up.
“Nothing can be more humiliating to you as workers than somebody who is elected on your platform, taking a position that is completely in conflict with what you stand for.
“And that is why I will conclude by saying that all of us should look carefully. I have even told APC candidates. If you pursue absolute market forces, you don’t have me on your side because what brought us to this situation, talking about history, we must document the characters of government we interface with.
“So, if you say you do not want market forces, say so now to those who want to be president. I want you to use this moment to know that there is no such thing as a good person in government or a bad person – or a short person and a tall person. What will determine your fate are the policy choices that those in government consciously make.”
Oshiomhole, a former national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), he could not condemn the Labour movement if it had decided to protest against the high price of diesel in the country.
He said the privilege of office as a former governor of Edo State was not enough for him to forget his Labour background.
He said: “If I was a coward, I won’t be removed the way I was removed as National Chairman of APC,” advising Labour leaders to stop agonising and start organising.
Oshiomhole urged Labour leaders to seek for the payment of wages equivalent to the dollar.
He said: “We must teach our younger generation to understand the other side of the argument. There must be more than one way to bail us out from where we are.
“Sunday, I had the opportunity to address the APC youth leaders and I told them we are not just interested in building a great country with a huge Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the largest GDP in Africa, but the GDP should reflect in our living standard.
“We should have well paid people and more prosperous people. We don’t just want to say that we have the largest GDP in Africa. We want to be able to say that our people are better off than people in any other African countries. If not, then, there is a crisis of description and we cannot be progressive.
“If we post two contradictory indexes, the human index is going down and then, the economy index is going up, something is going wrong.
“I want you to know that what makes us different as Labour leaders is that if you are grounded on those core values of Labour, nothing in life will make you change.
“I said this before even on national television that the fact that the children of the poor are at home, is not featured in conversations on television. It’s all about politics, this is wrong. It is not an act of God. We have to fix it.”
Former NLC Chairman Hassan Sunmonu, who decried the neglect of the university sector, queried: “Why is it different in this particular country? Name one university anywhere in the world where vice chancellors have to ask for the permission of the Head of Service before they recruit a Professor.
“Name any university in the world where professors and lecturers are paid through the Accountant-General’s Office. Where in the world is anything akin to IPPIS being forced on any university?
“The most patriotic Nigerians are those at the federal universities. Why should a senior lecturer have the salary of a sergeant in the army? If we don’t take education seriously it will be to the detriment of our present and future.”
Sunmonu said he “ would like to congratulate the leadership of the NLC for this feat. I am very proud of you people.
“The IMF and World Bank want to make Nigeria a poor and undeveloped country forever. Our policy makers are not talking. Most of them were put there by the IMF and World Bank.
“We don’t have secrets in Nigeria. Our secrets are in Washington, London and Co.”
The need for salary adjustment is a fallout of the spiralling inflation being experienced in Nigeria and across the globe. In Nigeria, inflation has been on the rise since after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the last three or four months, food inflation has been trending upward from a little above 16 per cent in June, to well over 20 per cent according to the inflation data for August released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The resultant effect of this development is that food prices have more than tripled in local markets.
Most noticeable in this spiral price jump are most Nigeia’s staple foods, such as garri, rice, beans, tomatoes, provision and the whole gamut of the common ingredients used for cooking.
In addition, prices of fruits have joined the fray. Water melon, carrots, oranges and pineapples that used to be common features of diets, have all vanished from most tables. The cost of meat and fish and other proteinous items have vanished from the cooking pots of many households, as their prices are now at the roof tops.
Also noticeable, and in increasing dimension, is the incidence of open solicitations by families who are longer able to cater for their households.
In the build industry, there is palpable lamentation by builders who bemoan the astronomical rise of building materials almost on a daily basis. Some builders who interacted with The Nation said they have to put their building projects on hold because of cost overruns, others have expressed concern that they would let their properties at the rate prices of building materials have sky rocketed.