A sustained campaign by unions and threat of strike action has succeeded in pushing the Nigerian National Assembly to approve a new national minimum wage of 30,000 Naira (US$83) a month, when it appeared to be stalling.
Nigerian unions, including seven IndustriALL Global Union affiliates, will now lobby the Senate to pass the legislation when it resumes sitting.
If that is successful, all that will be left is for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the minimum wage proposal into law. The new minimum wage is meant to cushion lowly paid workers in both the public and private sectors.
Attempts to have a two-tier minimum wage structure in which state and private sector workers would be paid N27,000 (US$74), sponsored by the National Council of States, were rejected by the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the United Labour Congress.
Further, the federations demanded that there be no retrenchments because of the minimum wage. They rejected N27,000 because it is not the one recommended by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage in which the labour federations were represented. The committee held public hearings across the country and consulted widely before presenting their recommendations to the federal government.
The unions say the depreciation of the Naira has reduced the value of the minimum wage. For instance, in 2011 the N18,000 minimum wage was equal to US$150 but the approved minimum wage is less than US$100. This means going below N30,000 (US$83) is further pushing workers into poverty.
Afolabi Olawale Olufemi, acting general secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, said:
“We welcome the approval of the national minimum wage by the National Assembly and commend them for adopting the recommendations of the minimum wage committee which came out of a protracted consultative process.”
IndustriALL’s seven affiliates in Nigeria organize in sectors including chemical, energy, oil and gas, steel and engineering, and textile, garment, leather and footwear.