The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has disclosed that it has proposed a wage award to President Bola Tinubu’s government to cushion the effects of petrol subsidy removal on average Nigerians.
NLC president Joe Ajaero disclosed this on Wednesday at the ongoing 111th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mr Ajaero said the proposal was part of the agreement reached with the Tinubu government during the negotiation on the removal of fuel subsidy, stressing that the agreement “we had with them is not minimum wage” but “wage award and it must be understood clearly.”
“We have proposed to them a wage award, which could be implemented immediately without waiting for the statutory period for the minimum wage law or for it to expire,” explained Mr Ajaero. “What we are going to do is to look at the rate at which this wage award will be, whether it will be N100,000 or N20,000.”
He stated that this would not stop the minimum wage review, which will be due “by early next year,” reiterating that it “is good we draw this demarcation.”
Mr Ajaero added, “We will ensure to review minimum wage statutorily because they have taken action by removing subsidy without providing anything. That is why they are talking about minimum wage.”
He pointed out that early this year, the federal government gave workers a form of wage award of about 40 per cent to cushion the effects of COVID-19.
“Now that we are having the effect of this subsidy removal, we will look at an award that will cushion it. In this country, even in the 1970s, we had the Udoji award and others,” the labour union leader in Nigeria added. “So, that is the purpose, whatever we are going to come up with at our next meeting with the government, but not minimum wage.”
He disclosed that some state governors had yet to abide by the National Minimum Wage Act to pay N30,000 as the least salary.
Meanwhile, NLC wants the subsidy regime investigated. Mr Ajaero complained about its opacity.
“We did not even want to go into the politics of subsidy because we knew that as far as NLC is concerned, we do not know the people that are receiving the subsidy. We do not know people importing and exporting. So, it is exclusive to them,” the NLC chief stated.
He added, “But we have asked them to investigate the subsidy regime because it is not enough to say subsidy is gone and we cover it up. Let us know those involved. Let us know what they did or what they are doing.”
Mr Ajaero said the meeting also discussed the issue of modular refineries, just like in some states, which brought down diesel prices.
“There are areas in Akwa Ibom today where diesel sells for about N300 or N400 from the modular refinery. While we buy diesel in Lagos and Abuja for N800, they buy between N300 and N400. So, if you have all these modular refineries, it will bring down the cost,” the labour leader said.
He stated that NLC “have all insisted that the Warri and the Port Harcourt refineries that they have awarded contracts must be concluded as soon as possible.”