Democracy Day Speech: No going back on N250,000 new minimum wage demand — Labour tells Tinubu

…No agreement reached — Labour faults presidency

…Accept our offer to avoid job losses — FG appeals to labour

By Sodiq Adelakun

Organised Labour has dismissed President Bola Tinubu’s assertion that a deal has been reached on a new national minimum wage, calling it “doctored” and “unacceptable.”

In a statement, Labour leaders clarified that no agreement was reached during the tripartite negotiations, which ended on June 7. Instead, two figures – N250,000 from Labour and N62,000 from the government and Organised Private Sector (OPS) – were proposed and meant to be presented to the President for consideration.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Acting President, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, emphasised that anything less than N250,000 would be rejected by Labour, signalling a potential industrial action if their demand is not met.

The statement contradicts President Tinubu’s Democracy Day address, where he claimed an agreement had been reached on a new minimum wage.

In a statement by the Acting President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, Labour noted that anything to the contrary was not only doctored, but won’t be accepted by Labour.

Reacting to the President’s speech titled “Tinubu’s Democracy Day speech and national minimum wage negotiation: May be accurate in history, inaccurate in reality,” equally, maintained that the committee never agreed on a five -year duration of the minimum wage Act, while acknowledging that the President mentioned five years or less.

The statement reads in part, “The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) attentively listened to the Democracy Day Presidential address delivered by His Excellency, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, especially concerning the ongoing National Minimum Wage negotiations. While the President may have accurately recounted parts of our democratic journey’s history, it is evident that he has been misinformed regarding the outcome of the wage negotiation process.

“To quote Mr. President; ‘As we continue to reform the economy, I shall always listen to the people and will never turn my back on you.’ In this spirit, we have negotiated in good faith and with open arms with organised labour on a new national minimum wage. We shall soon send an executive bill to the National Assembly to enshrine what has been agreed upon as part of our law for the next five years or less.

“In the face of labour’s call for a national strike, we did not seek to oppress or crack down on the workers as a dictatorial government would have done. We chose the path of cooperation over conflict. No one was arrested or threatened. Instead, the labour leadership was invited to break bread and negotiate toward a good-faith resolution.

“We appreciate the President’s commitment to those fine democratic ideals which allowed the work of the Tripartite National Minimum Wage Negotiation Committee to proceed unhindered despite some hiccups. However, we had expected Mr. President to have used this understanding as one of those who was in the vanguard of the struggle with us around the nation to rescue Nigeria from the hands of the military to harmonise the two figures submitted to him by the Tripartite Committee in favour of workers and masses. It would have been a fitting Democracy Day gift.

“The NLC would have expected that the advisers of the President would have told him that we neither reached any agreement with the federal government and the employers on the base figure for a National Minimum Wage nor on its other components. Our demand still remains N250,000 (two hundred and fifty thousand Naira) only and we have not been given any compelling reasons to change this position which we consider a great concession by Nigerian workers during the tripartite negotiation process.

“We are therefore surprised at the submission of Mr. Presidentover a supposed agreement. We believe that he may have been misled into believing that there was an agreement with the NLC and TUC. There was none and it is important that we let the President, Nigerians and other national stakeholders understand this immediately to avoid a mix up in the ongoing conversation around the national minimum wage. We have also not seen a copy of the document submitted to him and will not accept any doctored document.

“However, we want to reaffirm our belief that the President on whose table the Tripartite Committee’s report presently resides would prepare an Executive Bill which content will reflect the true demand of Nigerian workers. We think that this is an opportunity for him to demonstrate his love for Nigerian workers and masses by shunning the pieces of advice that may be coming from those whose intentions are continuously focused on hurting the poor and struggling workers of Nigeria. Mr. President should not allow these individuals and groups to sabotage his promise of lifting Nigerian workers out of poverty.

“President’s advisers obviously did not tell him the truth that the leaders of the trade unions were intimidated and harassed. It is therefore important that Mr. President understands that we were threatened severally by his operatives perhaps without his consent. Series of media Propaganda calculated to intimidate and harass us were, and, are still being waged against the trade unions by senior officials of this government. Fully armed soldiers surrounded us while we were in a negotiation with the Government and despite denials; recent statements by senior officials of the Government reaffirmed our fears contrary to the assurances by the Government. However, we remain assured that the President’s democratic credentials will come to the fore in favour of Nigerian workers and masses.

“It is also important that Mr. President should know that most of his officers are working round the clock to set up the leadership of congress and the trade unions. We never agreed on a 5-year duration of the minimum wage Act though we acknowledge that the President mentioned 5 years or less. We also agreed that inflation should be pegged at a level for a certain amount to be agreed as minimum wage. This is to bring clarity to what the report should contain.

Accept our offer to avoid job losses — FG appeals to Labour

Also NLC reiterated its stance on a fair national minimum wage, emphasising that Nigerian workers cannot accept a “starvation wage” that perpetuates poverty. The NLC seeks justice, equity, and fairness for all Nigerians, urging President Bola Tinubu to fulfil his promise of a living wage. The labour union believes that a fair minimum wage is essential for building a stronger democratic nation based on equity, where prosperity is shared by all, not just a few individuals.

Also, the Federal Government has reaffirmed its dedication to establishing a realistic and sustainable minimum wage for Nigerian workers, according to the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris.

Speaking at the 2024 Synod of the Charismatic Bishops Conference of Nigeria in Abuja, Idris urged organised labour to propose a feasible minimum wage that would not lead to widespread job losses.

He cautioned that accepting unrealistic wages could harm the economy.

He said, “As I have repeatedly said, the Federal Government is not opposed to the increase of wages for Nigerian Workers but we keep on advocating for a realistic and sustainable wage system for the workers – a wage system that will not undermine the economy, lead to mass retrenchment of workers and jeopardise the welfare of about 200 million Nigerians.

“We want the labour unions to understand that the relief that Nigerians are expecting, and that they fully deserve, will not come only in the form of an increase in wages. It will also come as efforts to reduce the cost of living and to ensure that more money stays in the pockets of Nigerians. “

The Minister also called on religious leaders to assist in raising public awareness about government initiatives and efforts.

Idris emphasised the crucial role of the clergy in disseminating information about available opportunities and the government’s ongoing efforts.

“As a government, we need your support, your advice, and your feedback,” Idris stated.

“Very importantly, we need you to be aware of the efforts being made and the challenges being faced so that you can help us communicate these to your congregations and the general public,” he said.

The Minister highlighted the influential platforms of religious leaders, noting their potential to enlighten Nigerians on their rights, responsibilities, and the economic opportunities provided by the policies under President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.

The agenda aims to promote economic rebirth, strengthen national security, boost agriculture and food security, and transform infrastructure and transportation.

“Information and awareness are critical, and this is where our religious leaders come in. You have very influential platforms that can enlighten Nigerians on their rights, responsibilities, and the abundance of economic opportunities being thrown up by the policies and programmes being implemented under the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu,” he noted.

He acknowledged the significant role of spiritual leaders in fostering peace, unity, and hope within Nigerian communities.

He extended commendations to the Charismatic Bishops Conference and the Christian Association of Nigeria for their contributions to harmony and peaceful coexistence.

“The President has always recognised the profound impact of religious leaders on the unity, peace, and prosperity of our country. He deeply values the partnership between the government and the religious community in building a nation that thrives on mutual respect, understanding, and shared values.

“Let me extend our heartfelt commendation to the Charismatic Bishops Conference and by extension the Christian Association of Nigeria, for your instrumental role in promoting harmony and peaceful co-existence in our country.

“Indeed, the Church, throughout our nation’s history, has been a steadfast partner to the government in championing social causes and the provision of essential social services such as hospitals and schools, as well as the inculcation of values in our citizens,” he said.

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