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Minimum Wage, Maximum Wahala

Minimum Wage, Maximum Wahala

Minimum Wage, Maximum Wahala

By Tahir I Tahir Talban Bauchi

Not even the IMF will go against the increase in the minimum wage in Nigeria, with all their harsh economic advices to 3rd world countries. The Federal government, State governments, Organised private sector, all and sundry, are in favor of the increase in minimum wage in the raging wages’ debate.

Constitutionally, it is provided that it is reviewed after every four years. Not only is it due, but it has been necessitated by the implementation of two very stringent economic policies of the government: removing fuel subsidy; floatation of the naira.

These have astronomically driven inflation, and made the cost of living shooting through the roof! As much as we have all clamoured for the increase in minimum wage, the debate and negotiations have dragged on for too long, almost a year.

This has been for two reasons: labor has not been sincere in their demands, asking for an astronomical 494,000 naira as minimum; and the FG has dragged its feet too, barely shifting ground from its original negotiation figures. Even though the latest figure of 62,000 naira represents a 100% increase, it has thrown in more discussions to the debate on what the minimum wage should be, and what is actually feasible.

The Federal government agrees that it can pay upward of 60,000 naira to its 1.2 million workers as minimum wage. The Organised Private Sector, OPC, agrees with this figure, and has perhaps been responsible for the FG’s caution not to offer more than this figure. It is speculated that the FG can go up to about 100,000 naira. The bitter pill in all this, is the predicament of workers in the various State civil service.

So many States are yet to implement the 30,000 naira minimum wage, what more of the proposed 60,000 naira? Zamfara State just recently implemented the 30,000 naira minimum wage, and the Labor Union in the State sang hallelujah right in front of the Governor and celebrated it. Kwara State says it can only pay 46,000 naira.

Atleast half of the States in the country cannot pay more than 50,000 naira. The purses of the States have been increased by 100% on a monthly basis, and it is clear that they can only barely do a 100% increase in their minimum wages.

Edo State, proposed a 70,000 naira wage, and it is yet to be confirmed whether it has been implemented or not, as it may seem as just a campaign gimmick to win the elections by the State’s ruling party, and eventually become an unsustainable wage for the State.

Even though illegally, Labor has been able to twist the arm of the government at the Federal level, paralysing essential services, switching off the national grid, and shutting down hospitals and airports.

And that was why they sought immunity for their members in their negotiations with the tripartite committee set up by the FG to negotiate with them.

They seem to have won in their struggles with the FG on the negotiating table. However, they seem to be in a squeaky bottom time with the State governments and that is perhaps a battle they cannot win. If they’ve gone toe to toe with the FG, stifled its activities, and grounded government’s functions, it is hardly a route they could go with the State governments.

Labor at the Federal level is far from the realities at the State level, and they could hardly get the commit of the State unions in actions they may want to take. The pots in the States are not as juicy as that in the Federal Government, and no matter what they do, they can hardly get more of a bargain, than what the States are already offering.

The inflows figures from the States are available for all to see what they can bear.

Does labor go ahead and deny Federal civil servants the increment available from the FG because of the States? No! Can they arm-twist the State governments into the Federal minimum wage on offer? Impossible! Perhaps a stratified approach to the whole debate may be a win-win situation for all.

Labor would have done their duty of working hard for an increased minimum wage.

Federal and State governments would have acceded to the demands of their people in increasing their wages in the face of high costs of living.

Better wages would also have been extracted from the Organised Private Sector, who are the poorest footers’ of workers renumeration. The FG, States, and OPC then pays different minimum wages, based on their strengths. If there are legislations to be tinkered with, to make this segmentation of wages possible, then they must be legislated upon with the alacrity that the National Anthem legislation was treated. This debate needs to be over and done with, as it prepares us for the rougher road ahead, where egg retailers are swearing to increase the price of a crate of eggs to 10,000 per crate, once a minimum wage of 100,000 naira is agreed upon.

That way the National grid can rest a bit, as it seems to have gained its ‘mojo’ back. Switching it back on-stream takes a while from our last labor power outage experience and billions were lost by businesses nationwide.

That way the FG can work on perfecting laws protecting our national assets from debates over minimum wage, regional government, 6 year new tenure for Presidents and other such nuances that labor may want to partake in.

Minimum Wage, Maximum Wahala

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