This is indeed not the best of times for President Bola Tinubu and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for obvious reasons. Apart from not fulfilling most of the demands of organised labour, President Tinubu recently decried the frequency of labour strikes, which he put at four since the nine months of his administration. The spat between the President and NLC president, Joe Ajaero, over incessant strikes and the allusion to the 2027 election is unnecessary.

For industrial harmony, President Tinubu should find amicable ways of improving relations with labour unions and their leaders. Labour agitation has nothing to do with politics or who is at the helm. The leaders of workers’ unions are more concerned about the welfare of their members and the welfare of all Nigerians. If the government can implement agreements reached with workers, there won’t be any need for strike. Therefore, Nigerian workers should not be threatened or intimidated for protesting the hardship in the country.

While the federal government is yet to address some of the 16-point agreement with labour, the issue of the new minimum wage for Nigerian workers has dwarfed other demands between the government and labour. After its successful one-day nationwide protest against the prevailing hardship in the country before calling it off, the NLC gave the government another 14-day ultimatum within which  the government will address pending agreements or risk the mother of all strikes.

Although the ultimatum will expire this week, it is not likely that labour will embark on another strike at a time of negotiating the new minimum wage. No doubt, a new minimum wage has become imperative considering the current economic hardship and rising cost of living caused by the hasty removal of fuel subsidy and unification of the exchange rates by the Tinubu administration. The dollarisation of the economy has really not helped matters.

Furthermore, the N30,000 minimum wage, which some states are reportedly struggling to pay, is no longer realistic in present day Nigeria. It cannot sustain a worker for 30 days. The devaluation of the naira through ill-advised policies of the government has made nonsense of the minimum wage and indeed what most Nigerians earn. The hard times we are in call for a realistic and sustainable minimum wage.

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After the mooted N1million minimum wage demand attributed to organized labour, the NLC has proposed N709,000 as the new minimum wage. However, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has proposed N447,000. The states are also proposing between N45,000 and N70,000. There is also no uniformity among what the labour unions across the six geo-political zones proposed as the new minimum wage. While they proposed N540,000 per month in the South-East, it was N794,000 in the South-West, N850,000 in the South-South, N560,000 in the North-East, N485,000 in the North-West and North-Central, N709,000.

The 37-member panel set up by President Bola Tinubu on the new minimum wage should work expeditiously to give Nigerian workers a realistic and living minimum wage. They must sieve through the proposals arising from organised labour at the national and zonal levels and those from state governors to arrive at an acceptable and sustainable minimum wage. In view of the fact that many states struggled to pay the current minimum wage of N30,000, the financial capacity of the various states should be taken into consideration while fixing the new minimum wage.

Beyond an acceptable new minimum wage, the federal government should address hunger and hardship, as well as initiate measures to shore up the value of the naira. At the same time, the government must not overlook the issues that led to the recent nationwide protest by the NLC. Let the government begin to address the workers’ grievances and the implementation of the 16-point agreement it reached with labour.

It is not good for government to renege on agreements reached with labour unions. Moving forward, we urge the government to be honest and transparent in its dealings with labour. Organised labour should also minimize the use of strikes in settling issues with the government. Strike can only be used after other options have been exhausted. We urge the government to promise only those things that it can fulfill. Therefore, government and labour should come up with a realistic minimum wage for Nigerian workers.