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Struggle for a Sustainable Minimum Wage Continues

Struggle for a Sustainable Minimum Wage Continues

Happiness Ifiok, Calabar

The issue and struggle for a sustainable minimum wage are not only discussed in Nigeria, but in many other countries across the world. The Nigerian government has created a scenario to appear as if the employees are attempting to rob them, hence the “no work no pay” policy. National laws enforcing compulsory union membership which prescribed minimum wages for their members were first passed in New Zealand and Australia in the 1890s.

The movement for minimum wages was first motivated as a way to stop exploitation of workers in “sweatshops”, by employers who were thought to have unfair bargaining power over their employees. In the European Union, 22 member states out of 28 currently have national minimum wages, while countries like Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Austria have no minimum wage law, but rely on employer groups and trade unions to set minimum earnings through collective bargaining.

The Nigerian minimum wage is pegged at 18,000 naira per month with a 13 month year, as the law mandates an extra month’s pay for the Christmas holiday. But how long will the 18,000 naira minimum wage sustain workers in the country during these trying times of the nation’s economy challenges? The Buhari-led administration came into power in 2015 with the promise of making things better for an average Nigerian. But what has Nigerians got since they gave him their votes? Obviously, this 18,000 naira can no longer sustain workers for 31 days as the case may be, since prices of goods and services in the country have risen unimaginably. The government is being insensitive; it should have taken the initiative to increase the minimum wage without a request from the Nigerian Labour Congress.

 This would have increased the citizen’s confidence in it, thus making the officials’ re-election in 2019 a stress free exercise. The Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) has agreed that governors will pay 22,500 as minimum wage, a decision which the federal government has frowned at. Have these governors ever sat down to imagine how workers in the country survive with their families from the little or no money they get as monthly salaries? These salaries cover tuition fees, medical bills, rent, feeding and other utility bills. Life must be really challenging we must agree. Nigeria is among countries with the lowest minimum wage pay in the world, with an average working period of 8 hours daily and 5 days weekly.

The Nigerian workers are tired of always begging for what is rightfully theirs. The proposed national industrial strike action of November 6, 2018 seems scary, but perhaps that would be the only way out. Industrial actions have yielded positive results in the past across the world. The Nigerian Labour Congress is proposing 66, 500 naira as the new minimum wage.

Nigeria is the largest African crude oil supplier to India as its annual exports 400,000 barrels per day as it Gross Domestic product for 2017 stood at 375.8 billion dollars. Nigeria is a developing country with 35% of the population living under the poverty line. It is the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter and has the 10th largest proven reserves. But that doesn’t really count as the country has now taken over India as the nation with the highest number of extremely poor people. What is the government doing with the nation’s resources and how is it managing the nation’s finances?

The federal government has been borrowing a lot in the last few years to run the country in a bid to contribute to the pockets of few wealthy Nigerians and renders the majority poor to their fate. The big question remains, can the Nigerian government pay 66, 500 as minimum wage, or is it just being insensitive to the plight of the Nigerian workers? The big question remains, as the struggle continues.

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