By Merit Ibe

Following the ongoing negotiations between the federal government and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) regarding a new national minimum wage, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has urged all parties to consider a wage that reflects a good balance of economic realities, affordability and sustainability.

The chamber advised that  a situation where a wage is forced on government and businesses, which will eventually lead to job losses, worsen poverty levels and so much money chasing few goods should be avoided.

Director General of the chamber, Chinyere Almona, who made the remark therefore, called on Labour to be more flexible, reconsider government’s offerings and be concerned about how private businesses can afford to pay the set wage without considering shutting down operations or cutting jobs.

Beyond the new minimum wage, Almona noted that  the Chamber is more concerned about having a more productive economy with a robust infrastructural base supporting the  economy.

She therefore urged the government to consider the following: Implement special non-cash interventions that will see businesses spend less on production; Remove the import duties on food imports and critical raw materials and drastically reduce the import duty exchange rate on agricultural input and other imports that have multiplier effects on prices.”

She further advised that government should implement an aggressive metering programme on power supply, and more investment and regulation in the sector to boost power supply through more contractual discipline and gas supply guarantees; Build infrastructure to support local production of essential medicines and more spending to upgrade our public health facilities.”

The DG noted that with the government’s commitment to providing these support systems to Nigerians, low-income earners will spend less on these expenditure heads and have a better living standard in the long run. She said the labour unions should consider labour productivity supported by infrastructure rather than high wages with weak productivity, adding that government needs to spend more on providing the infrastructural base required for a productive workforce and a conducive business environment.

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“The federal government’s proposals represent a significant increase aimed at improving the livelihood of workers across Nigeria. However, it is imperative to acknowledge the fiscal constraints and economic challenges various state governments face. Some governors under the Nigerian Governors’ Forum have already indicated their inability to meet the initially proposed higher minimum wage, citing budgetary limitations and the potential risk to essential public services.

“We urge all parties to consider a wage that is within the financial capacity of both federal and state governments, one that  will help maintain economic stability and prevent potential layoffs or cuts in essential services.

“ It is also pertinent to adopt a wage that supports long-term economic sustainability. Over-extending financial commitments could increase borrowing and debt, adversely affecting the nation’s economy.

“ All states can uniformly implement the new minimum wage by agreeing to a realistic and achievable wage, ensuring that workers nationwide benefit without significant delays or discrepancies. A wage demand exceeding state governments’ capacity could lead to industrial actions, strikes and widespread disruptions, further hindering economic recovery and growth.”

She emphasised that the government needs to show more seriousness about cutting down the cost of governance and be committed to investing more in layers of infrastructure that support productivity and revenue generation. “With more transparency in government spending, future negotiations will become easier as all parties are well aware of the realities.

“We also call on the government to commit to having the national minimum wage reviewed every five years. The government can show concern about personnel welfare by enhancing their allowances beyond the minimum wage, which is only calculated based on basic salaries.

“We call on the labour unions to consider the interests of the broader business community in their demands and be more flexible in negotiations.

“We call on all parties to work towards a new national minimum wage that promotes a fair deal to all concerned and for the overall interest of society

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