Strike: Ajaero Lists Reasons For Demanding Over ₦400,000 As Minimum Wage

Comrade Joe Ajaero, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has explained why the Organized labour is demanding over four hundred thousand Naira from the Tinubu-led Federal Government as the minimum wage for workers....Read The Full Story Here ▶

Ajaero spoke during the Vanguard Economic Discourse about the urgent need for the government to address the economic challenges and prevent further suffering among citizens as a result of its policies.

Speaking on the rationale behind the call for a minimum wage of over ₦450,000 naira from the government in power, considering the potential impact on inflation in the country, the NLC president said it is worth noting that in a typical scenario, one might be prompted to convert the current wage earned by workers to dollars, revealing that it equates to approximately 20 dollars, which is among the lowest minimum wages globally.

Ajaero also noted that it is essential to recognize that the cost of living index plays a significant role in determining appropriate wage levels.

For instance, he said that one could compare this wage demand to the cost of a bag of rice, currently priced at around ₦84,000 naira. Similarly, consider individuals who regularly refill their gas cylinders at a cost of 16,000 to ₦17,000 naira per week or twice a month, totalling over ₦30,000 naira.

Furthermore, the NLC President calls for a reflection on the cost of a plate of food at a local eatery, priced at approximately ₦500 naira without meat.

When extrapolated to a family of six, this would amount to ₦270,000 naira per month without meat.

These examples illustrate the ongoing financial challenges faced by many, Ajaero noted.

Additionally, he stressed the United Nations’ provision that no individual should live on less than $2 per day.

For a family of six, this translates to $12, equivalent to ₦3,600 naira. When converted to the current exchange rate, the disparity becomes evident, the NLC boss observed.

Ajaero asked whether the labour sector should advocate for individuals to subsist on less than $1, let alone $ $2, per day.

He said this stark contrast raises questions about the government’s commitment to providing a living wage, distinct from a mere minimum wage, as articulated by President Bola Tinubu.

The NLC President added: “A living wage is that which will keep you and your family at least to eat till the end of the month. The fact that the government has so much devalued the naira that it doesn’t have weight again, should not make us not to feed.

“No worker, including those in this hall today, goes to work and back without spending N2,000 a day. In a month, it’s N60,000. Now check all these things and see whether a worker earning N615,000 in a month will have one naira in savings.

“We deliberately didn’t put communication. We deliberately didn’t put tithe, we assume that a worker doesn’t have parents in our calculation.”

When asked to comment on the argument that Labour’s demand for a minimum wage will create inflation, Ajaero said, “It is a real wage that generates a good economy because when workers earn, they purchase. When you increase the purchasing power of workers, the economy will grow, and you will have proper productivity.

“I have not seen any conscious effort by the operators of the Nigerian state today to reform the economy.

“Well, an increase in the pump price of petroleum products—is that a reform? The answer is no. An increase in the electricity tariff—is that a reform? The answer is no. Currency flotation —is that a reform? The answer is no. So, I want to understand the reforms that are taking place in Nigeria.

“Is expanding the net of taxes reform? And all these are bringing a lot of burdens on the workers. If you check, workers are the main people that pay actual tax, they don’t even have options because it’s deducted from their salary and it’s remitted. Also, the percentage at which the PMS price was increased from ₦185 to about ₦700, now where in the world can you get that? And the very moment the government touched PMS, all other issues in the country were affected.

“The cost of food, education, housing, and transportation has all increased. The food inflation is about 40% plus.

“When we brought up this issue of PMS increase and challenged them to reverse it, they said we should negotiate wages. When we negotiated wages with them, the only thing we could get them was what they call a wage award as an interim relief measure.

“But even before then, President Buhari had realized the nature of the salary workers were collecting. For the federal civil servants, he brought what he called a peculiar allowance, which added 40% to their earnings.

“Unfortunately, the present government deregulated and removed subsidies before considering what would cushion the effect. One year later, that cushion has not come. And the government decided to adopt a palliative policy. That is what the government is in today, the government of palliatives. Even the palliatives, they say, there should be cash transfers to the most vulnerable. As of today, there has never been any cash transfer.

“There has never been any cash transfer to anybody. The wage review system is five years. In Ghana, they review wages annually. Even in the UK, they adjust wages based on the level of inflation. But we can’t keep wages here. Even if the government gives us N615 for the next five years, it will be meaningless.

“Also, the government is talking about foreign reserves. You can’t continue to keep reserve when people are dying of poverty. What are you going to do with the reserve?

“The purpose of any government is for the good of the people, whether workers or whatever. So you are talking of reserve, saving money, economic policies, and people are going into poverty? Unfortunately, one of the eight-point agenda of Mr. President is to eradicate poverty. But how many people have descended into poverty between May 29th 2023 till date? More people.”

Ajaero added: “So the policies we are having are leading people into clear cases of poverty. Money is what money can buy. There is no way you can eat today if you can’t buy something. And for you to buy, you need money to buy. So that is what has brought Labour to where they are.

“Thirty thousand of any currency is a very big money. You can’t pay people thirty thousand dollars. You can’t pay thirty thousand pounds. But when you destroy the value of that currency, we now continue to mention the issue of hundred thousand, two hundred thousand.

“You look at the payment per hour in the US. They pay fifteen dollars per hour or more. So, why don’t you adopt it here? So that we know we are working based on that index. And the payment of salaries in Nigeria, like I said, should be calculated based on hours. And let us see whether we have up to thirty naira per hour in Nigeria. So let us work all these since we are bringing all these economic policies.”

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