Minimum Wage: It's Not About Volume But About Value, Says TUC President Osifo

Minimum Wage: It’s Not About Volume But About Value, Says TUC President Osifo

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As negotiations continue regarding the minimum wage of workers in Nigeria, the government has made a proposal of 60,000 naira, which the Labour Unions have rejected.

The President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Festus Osifo, has voiced strong objections to the recent proposal of a N60,000 minimum wage, arguing that the value of this sum falls drastically short of providing a livable income for Nigerian workers.

During an interview with ARISE NEWS on Wednesday, Osifo highlighted that while the proposed 60,000 naira might seem substantial on the surface, the real issue lies in the purchasing power of the proposed wage. “When they proposed that 60%, what we told them is that it is not about the volume, but it is about the value,” he stated.

“The reason why I’m saying value and not volume is because if 10,000 naira has value, we will collect 10,000 naira. So today, what will make sense is not 60,000 naira. So the reality today is that what will bring that value is when the volume is high. But if the value was there, even with 18,000 naira, if 18,000 naira today could buy what 18,000 naira was buying in 2011, we would not be where we are today.

He added, “So, if today, if our inflations were right, if today, if the exchange rate was somewhere around 700 naira to a dollar, if those were the conditions that we are negotiating under, it could have been different.”

He elaborated that at the current exchange rate, 60,000 naira equates to roughly $40, a figure significantly lower than the minimum wages in many African countries.

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“Let’s look at 60,000 naira that they have offered. 60,000 naira today is equivalent to about $40. Go and check how many substantive countries in Africa are paying 40 dollars to their workers? If you look at Angola, they just moved their minimum wage to about 120 (dollars) and Angola is not even the best in Africa. You have a lot of other countries that are doing over 200 to 300 dollars. The reason we are using dollars is because if I want to compare what we earn in Nigeria to what they earn in Angola, maybe they say 100,000 Kwanza, there must be a conversion rate with which you can compare across board.”

To underscore his point, Osifo drew comparisons to past values of the Nigerian minimum wage as well as the national budget, saying, “So what we said was that what was the value of the minimum wage when it was 18,000 naira? What was the value of the minimum wage when it was 30,000 naira? Those are the things that should be looked at. So 60,000 naira for us, when you look at the challenges we are facing today and when you look at the value of that money, we are far away.

“Our national budget today is about 27 trillion naira. That 27 trillion naira, by the time you convert it, it’s about $30 billion. It has been $30 billion for years but because the naira has devalued, you now have more naira, so the government think they have more money. No.”

He insisted that any discussion on minimum wage should focus on the value that the wage can provide, not merely the nominal figure. “60,000 naira is not just it. It is $40,” he reiterated, emphasising the inadequacy of the proposed amount. Osifo called for a more realistic evaluation of what constitutes a livable wage, taking into account the current economic challenges and inflation rates.

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“Our point is this. There was the value of 18,000 naira when you brought 18,000 as the minimum wage. There was a value of what 30,000 naira could buy when you brought it. So, we must sit down and look at what that value is.”

He also noted that the TUC’s proposed wage of 494,000 naira is negotiable and not fixated. However he said the 60,000 proposed by the government is not close to what the TUC has in mind.

Osifo said, “And remember, the reason we do give figures, I said it here the last time when we said 615, what I said on that particular day was that we give figures, we put headroom so that we have room to negotiate. So we are not fixated that it must be 494. No.”

Melissa Enoch

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