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Minimum wage negotiations suffer setback as labour minister, NLC, TUC presidents jet out of Nigeria

Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, as well as president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have departed Nigeria for Switzerland.

Politics Nigeria reports that the minister and labour leaders are in Geneva, Switzerland, for the International Labour Conference (ILC) which began on June 3, and is expected to end this week, Friday, June 14.

The trip, many believe, could stall ongoing minimum wage negotiations because the majority of labour leaders and representatives at the tripartite committee handling the negotiations have jetted out of the country for the conference.

In an interview, NLC’s Head of Information and Public Affairs, Benson Upah, said the outcome of the meetings of the two labour groups, this week, would determine their next line of action.

He noted the significance of the negotiation coming up during the Geneva conference, with several labour leaders, including heads of the NLC and TUC, Joe Ajaero and Festus Osifo, jetting out of the country.

According to him, this could stall whatever action labour might want to take “but it may not also stop it because even from Geneva, they can give instructions.”

However, another top labour leader, who did not want to be named, said the organs of the two labour centres would summon a meeting at the expiration of the one-week negotiation meeting on Wednesday.

He said the ILC would not stall negotiations because those who traveled could join virtually.

He said: “The reality is the demonstration of the level of disdain and contempt with which the Nigerian government holds the workers and the people.

“They don’t have any regard or respect for the people they lead, who are supposed to be at the heart of their governance effort. If they did, they wouldn’t have made the insulting offer of N2,000 to the existing N60,000.

“A minimum wage is supposed to help a worker eke out a living.”

Faulting the government for negotiating as if they are not dealing with humans, he said: “We do not have any intention to accept N62,000 nor will we accept anything that will not allow Nigerian workers to have a decent living. The organs of the congresses will meet to make decisions. Workers are the ones who create wealth; we will not allow our leaders in the corridors of power to make a mess of our lives.”

He added: “Any governor that refuses to pay a decent wage should resign. Are they not the ones paying school fees in advance for their children and saying there was no money? We have many of them. Ninety per cent of governors are looting their treasury.”

Recall that members of the organised labour had, on Tuesday, suspended their strike for five days.

The strike which commenced on Monday, June 3, was called to protest the failure of the Federal Government to approve a new minimum wage, latest May 31, and reverse the hike in electricity tariff.

Also recall that after a six-hour meeting with the leadership of organised labour in Abuja last Monday, the Federal Government expressed the commitment of President Bola Tinubu to raising the N60,000 offered as minimum wage.

The agreement stated: “The President is committed to establishing a National Minimum Wage higher than N60,000; and the Tripartite Committee will convene daily for the next week to finalise an agreeable National Minimum wage.

The organised labour also agreed to “immediately hold meetings of its organs to consider this new offer, and that no worker would face victimisation as a consequence of participating in the industrial action.”

The 112th session of the ILC, organised yearly by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), brings together governments, employers and workers’ organisations from its 187 member states (Nigeria inclusive) to address the world of work challenges, set and monitor international labour standards, and deliberate with development cooperation partners on projects and programmes to help realise decent work agenda.

The article was originally published on Politics Nigeria.

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